The Wautoma Area School District had their monthly board meeting on Jan. 11 where they discussed plans for the 2021-2022 school year.
The virtual model of learning was essential for some students this year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. At this time, the District has 15 percent of students participating in the fully virtual model, which is significantly less than the start of the school year as many students have switched to in-person.
Redgranite Elementary started the year with 20 percent of their students full-time virtual and are now down to 12 percent; Riverview Elementary started with 25 percent full-time virtual and are down to 14.44 percent; Parkside School started at 30 percent full-time virtual and are down to 14 percent; and Wautoma High School started with 35 percent full-time virtual and are down to 21.4 percent.
Even though the District has found success with Schoology and their virtual lessons, the Wautoma Area School District is not considered a virtual school district. District Administrator Tom Rheinheimer spoke to the board about plans for next year. As of now the District will not offer a full-time stand-alone virtual option for the 2021-2022 school year.
For the 2021-2022 school year there will be plans in place if there is a need for the hybrid or virtual model due to high COVID-19 numbers or quarantined close contacts, but the students would be expected to return in-person five days a week.
Another issue concerning virtual learning is severe weather days. It is traditional to give students snow days when the weather prevents school from opening, but with the rise of virtual learning they are now able to complete their work from home. The District has always accounted for enough academic hours to be able to provide students with severe weather days. That will not change, but the schools are only allowing two traditional severe weather days for the students. Any other days where the schools need to be closed will have students completing their lessons on Schoology, which will prevent the school from having to add days to the end of the school year to account for academic hours.
Since the start of the first quarter, the District is trending in a positive direction with the overall numbers of active cases decreasing, according to Rheinheimer. After returning from winter break the schools had seven students and three staff member quarantined for close contact. As of Jan. 11th, the student numbers have increased to 43 quarantined and staff remain at three. Rheinheimer stated those who have been quarantined have been primarily from cases outside of school, but he will continue to analyze the numbers and trends as they move through the year and report back to the Board.
The WASD School Nurse Cari Pronschinske has also been working towards obtaining antigen swabs. In the District Administrative report, the Board learned about the swabs and what it means for close contacts. Anyone who is quarantined due to close contact are able to receive a swab, which can ultimately reduce the isolation period.
Rheinheimer also stated that a survey was sent out late last week to all staff members to see if they are interested in receiving the COVID vaccine. At this time, about 115 employees are interested in having the vaccination when it becomes available.
When looking at the 2021-2022 school year calendar, one main concern was the timing of Spring Break. If the spring break was to be in the first week of March girl’s and boy’s basketball and wrestling could be impacted; however, the second week is the start of track practice for the athletes. During the discussion, Rheinheimer told the Board he would rather not see events be missed over practice. The board went on to approve the calendar with Spring Break being held March 7-11, 2022.
Wautoma High School Athletic Director Adam Vaughan praised the Board and the administration team for being so organized after seeing how other schools are handling this school year. Vaughan also presented the Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association Distinguished Service Award to Board Vice President Nicole Lehr for her continued service in working with the Booster Club, Backboard Club as well as her support for all of the District’s athletics.
The Board went on to approve the retirement of Barbara Dickson, A+ After School Enrichment Leader; the hiring of Dianna Parrott, A+ Spring Break Coordinator and A+ Summer Camp Coordinator; and Andrew Krueger, Wrestling, Middle School Assistant Coach; the Extension of WASD FFCRA Employee Handbook Addendum; and the 2021-2022 Open Enrollment Spaces.
The next Wautoma Area School Board meeting will be held on Monday, Feb. 8, at 6:15 p.m. in the Wautoma High School Library.