Prairie du Chien School Board approves re-entry plan

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By Ted Pennekamp

 

During its regular meeting Monday night, the Prairie du Chien School Board approved of a re-entry to school plan for the 2020-2021 school year. School is scheduled to begin on Sept. 1.

Board President Lonnie Achenbach voted against the plan. Nick Gilberts, Lynn O’Kane, Cassie Hubanks, Michael Higgins, Tom Peterson and Duane Rogers voted in favor of the plan.

“Student and staff safety are the number one priority,” said District Administrator Andy Banasik  as he gave a presentation about the plan before the board voted. Banasik said there have been many meetings during the past month and many people have been working hard to create the plan. More work needs to be done and the plan may continue to evolve due to the rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The re-entry plan involves various options for families to choose from. One option is a blended hybrid in which a student will be in the school building part of the time and will be at home doing virtual learning part of the time. 

Another option is a live virtual option in which students will learn from home via live virtual classrooms using Zoom. These students will not attend the school building. The Mighty River Charter School also uses live virtual learning and has instructors who are not members of the Prairie du Chien School District staff. The Mighty River Charter School has had virtual learning for many years. 

Another option is for some students to have face to face instruction in the school building full time. This option is criteria-based and is for students who have a difficult time learning via live virtual instruction. For example, some households don’t have good internet connections which makes  live virtual instruction nearly impossible.

The re-entry plan was created, in large part, so as to not have everyone (students and staff) in the building at once. It would be nearly impossible to maintain social distancing guidelines of six feet apart if everyone was at school at the same time, said Karen Sjoberg, district ACP/testing coordinator.

“It’s going to take a community effort,” said Sjoberg, in noting, for example, that some employers will need to work with parents regarding their work hours so that those parents can be home for their children’s live virtual instruction or other educational needs.

Bluff View Intermediate School and B.A. Kennedy Elementary School have plans similar to that of the high school, but the middle school and elementary school plans are tailored to the needs of younger students.

The re-entry plan will be placed on the school district website so that everyone can see every detail.

The plan was created through information gained from:

•Parent survey

•Staff survey

•Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines

•Meetings with all CESA #3 superintendents and separately with Crawford County superintendents

•Crawford County COVID-19 Response daily meetings with multiple stakeholders

•WASDA (Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators) meetings with superintendents and school district lawyers

•DPI (Department of Public Instruction) recommendations and regulations

•Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommendations

•Crawford County Public Health recommendations

•American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations

Re-entry plan goals

•Provide the best possible model of teaching and learning for every student and staff member while keeping both students and staff as safe as possible.

•Provide a flexible plan for student learning that will bring the students back to the buildings in the fall.

•Provide emotional and mental support for the school district’s families and staff.

•To keep the buildings open for the 2020-2021 school year.

In order to enact the plan, the school board also approved of purchasing $18,049 worth of webcams and microphones. It was noted that relief fund reimbursement is a possibility.

In other business, the board unanimously approved of the first reading of the newly created Prairie du Chien High School Achievement Program. The achievement program is a change to the school handbook and it will come before the board again during its August meeting, at which time the board may adopt it.

The program was approved as a first reading except for an area regarding sports and another area regarding all other extra-curricular activities. The areas concerning sports and extra-curricular activities may be adopted for the 2021-2022 school year.

Several audience members spoke about the handbook change, mostly citing concerns over student achievement as pertaining to sports and extra-curricular activities.

District Administrator Andy Banasik said there will be nine, 75-minute periods of instruction rotating on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and all classes on Wednesdays.  

The key component, said Banasik, will be the flex-time on Tuesdays and Fridays for students who need extra help in order to get their grades higher. According to the change, athletes will have to maintain a C or better in order to participate in sports. The current handbook says they must maintain a 1.5 grade point average. 

If eventually approved, the new handbook also would allow for zero to two minor discipline reports. If an athlete were to have more than two such reports, he or she would not be allowed to play sports. Also, a student-athlete should have no unexcused absences.

The achievement program is an incentive-based program by which students get rewarded for trying hard and getting the best grades they can. One such reward, for example, would be for seniors to achieve open campus status or open lunch status.

“We will reward kids who really try,” said Sjoberg.

The program was approved as a first reading only with the removal of two criteria that are recommended for 2021-2022. Both involve participation in sports and extra-curricular activities.

In further business, the board:

•Heard a presentation by Police Chief Kyle Teynor about the possibility of having a school resource officer in the school district. The board gave the go-ahead for Teynor to pursue the matter, which will come up for discussion again at a future board meeting.

•Approved of buying a ChlorKing HypoGen machine for $18,375 to disinfect every classroom every night. The machine makes disinfectant for 10 cents per gallon, and it was noted that it would pay for itself in three years. The school district may be able to partner with the city or the county.

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