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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo School District List Plans for Reopening

Issue Date: August 5, 2020

Five hundred and ten families responded to the Peshtigo School District parent survey earlier this summer, communicating their wishes and concerns. The Peshtigo School Board, administration, staff, and parents have had several in-person and virtual meetings to plan for reopening this fall. "It's going to be different this year. It's not going to be just as normal", Patrick Rau, Superintendent stated at one of the planning meetings. Middle/High School principal Chad Sodini said, "We understand that people are nervous. We're trying to do the best we can."

A big concern of parents and staff is the emotional and social health of our young people. We know that kids need the support of friends and teachers which is stronger with in-person instruction but this must be thoughtfully implemented using family choice as a guiding principle. At this time, 140 students have chosen to start the school year virtually.

Our "Forward Together plan is based on choice, adaptability, safety, and determination to serve all students! Peshtigo schools are going to set up classrooms for social distancing where possible. Wherever possible, they will space students out to reduce risk. The school is going to ask teachers and students to wear masks at older ages and in settings like buses. Hand sanitizing will be encouraged. Rau has emphasized that the goal is "risk mitigation". The maintenance staff will be using an electrostatic cleaning system weekly. All hard surfaces will be cleaned daily. They are doing whatever is in their control to reduce the risk of covid exposure while trying to maintain as much normalcy in the new-normal environment!

Nine bottle refilling stations have been installed for students to use rather than traditional fountains and hand sanitizer dispensers have been added. Each morning all staff will be screened with no contact thermometers to lessen the chance of transmission. Board member Josh Seefeldt states, ""Mr. Williams and his staff have been working very hard to make sure all the extra safety measures are in place. The main goal for us as a board and for administration is for students and staff to come back to the safest environment possible."

Modifications are being made to both of the buildings, they have improved and updated the nurses' offices to reflect the current concerns regarding Covid-19 and safety. Offices have been remodeled so students can have a pass-through window for direct access to nurses from the hallway in each building. Mailroom space will also be converted to Covid quarantine space for students showing covid symptoms to be isolated while awaiting pick-up.

Students at all grade levels will be going back to school in person. A large factor in having to move to virtual learning will be based on the number of infections in the county and available hospital beds. Student and staff absentee rates will also be factors. The administration is worried about teachers and other staff like bus drivers being absent for multiple days. "If we loose 2-3 teachers, we have no solution for that," stated Sodini.

"Last year it caught everyone off guard, that's why we're spending so much time planning and preparing this summer," Sodini stated. "We're making a lot of structural changes to do what's best for our students at all levels", stated Elementary Principal Kate Willett.

At the Peshtigo Elementary Learning Center, class sizes will be reduced to under 15 students per room. At the primary grades, some teachers have been reassigned to make class sizes smaller for social distancing, creating five sections per grade level rather than the typical four sections per grade level. Also at the PELC, students will remain in classrooms and the teachers at the intermediate level will move classroom to classroom. The idea is to contain students as much as possible to reduce the risk of exposure. If students would have exposure, they could have the single class quarantine at home while allowing others to continue in-person instruction. "The teaching staff has been doing a fantastic job at working out the details for arrival/departure procedures, recess, and lunchroom procedures. They're really making an extra effort to help kids and families limit their risks at school", stated Principal Willett.

At grade levels 5-12, in the case that COVID cases spike in the area, students will have a hybrid of in-person instruction and distance learning to reduce classroom size and passing time exposure risk. Rau has emphasized, "We are going back to the school for in-person instruction for those families who wish to do so, but we need a back-up plan in the case that this virus spreads more in our area." Let's not forget, we're all in this together! We all want what's best for our young people!


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