The Wautoma Area School Board heard more about more about the decision for the school district to transition to the hybrid learning model during their monthly meeting at Wautoma High School on Oct. 12. Earlier this month, WASD Administrator Tom Rheinheimer communicated to families all schools would be transitioning to the hybrid learning model starting Oct. 12.
According to Rhein-heimer, the decision to move from full-time, in-person learning to hybrid came after the number of positive cases and quarantined close contacts began to rise over the past few weeks. He stated that the administrative team understands that having in-person contact with students is crucial, but to switch to 100 percent virtual would be difficult for the District to recover from.
This hybrid schedule allows for students to be split into Cohort A and B, which ultimately reduces the number of students in the individual classes. Cohort A attends school on Monday and Thursday, while Cohort B attends Tuesday and Friday with Wednesday being a teacher preparation and communication day. When students are not in the building, they are expected to work on assignments virtually.
Rheinheimer also presented the statistics, bringing up the fact that in August, Waushara County was averaging two to three cases a day and now it is up to approximately 17 cases a day. “We are very comfortable with the decision we made based on the data,” Rheinheimer said.
Board Clerk Jeannette Thom commended the administrative team for their hard work, “thank you for keeping our kids safe,” she said.
In other news, the district has decided to move forward with winter athletics, which will have a late start this year to allow for extra planning. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has released guidelines similar to the fall athletic season. The athletic directors and school administrators will be working over the coming weeks to adhere to the WIAA regulations and safety precautions as they have done with fall athletics.
The board also heard a presentation from Director of Curriculum and Instruction Sierra Steuerwald regarding the District’s English Language Learning Program and ACCESS testing results for the 2019-2020 school year. The ACCESS test, which is administered to all English Language Learners students in December, measures the English Language proficiency levels for students enrolled in grades K-12. The test is administered each year to help school districts monitor English language development in students identified as ELL.
Steuerwald explained that the test is only given to students who are not yet proficient in the English language. Once they reach proficiency levels in speaking, writing, reading and listening they are exited out. The expected timeframe for students to be exited out of the program is within five to six years.
The results from the comparisons of ACCESS testing over the years has shown that the WASD continues to make gains, with the most growth coming in the listening portion of the test. During her presentation, Steuerwald also provided comparisons to previous test scores as well as a state comparison as to where WASD falls. At this time, Parkside School is showing average growth in their ELL students, while Riverview Elementary and Wautoma High School are testing above average.
Steuerwald concluded her presentation stating that the 2020-2021 school year may pose a challenge for ELL students as many have elected to go fully virtual. At this time, the teachers continue to find it difficult to connect with students often calling their home or attempting to set up Google Meets. Even though this poses to be a challenge, the teachers at each of the schools are working hard to support the families. Finally, Steuerwald stated the state ACCESS test is still planned to take place this December, but she is unsure how the test will be administered since a lot of students are virtual and is unsure what the data will look like next year.
The Wautoma High School Student Council also has returned to the meetings with new Junior Representative Anna Peterson recognized by the board members. During her report, Peterson spoke about homecoming, and, even though it looked quite different this year, the week was still a success. Student Council made videos introducing their fall athletes in place of their usual pep rally, and their officer positions will be announced later this month, as their election took place late this year.
The board also held a discussion on the facial covering requirement per the Waushara County Department of Health recommendation. The school district is recommended to keep up with the requirement as there is a Public Health Emergency. To keep up with Policy 8450, which requires the school to go with the Public Health Department’s advice on communicable diseases, the District will continue to require facial coverings until further notice.
The board also went on to approve the Spring 2020-October 2021 fundraisers; the resignation of James Margalski, Parkside School Special Education Teacher; the retirement of Deborah Raatz, Parkside School Cook III; John McCormick, Substitute Bus Driver; the McComb/Bruchs PAC Member; the 2020-2021 WASD Employee Handbook Revisions; and the WASD Employee Handbook Addendum: Response to COVID-19.
The next board meeting is set for Monday, Nov. 9, at 6:15 p.m. in the Wautoma High School Library.