Elk Mound school board approves 5 day in-person instruction, masks required

By LeAnn R. Ralph

ELK  MOUND  — The Elk Mound Board of Education has approved five-day per week in-person instruction, masks required, with virtual options for parents who do not want to send their children to school.   

The school board approved the risk mitigation re-entry plan for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic  at a special school board meeting August 6.

Eric Wright, district administrator, sent a letter to parents August 7.

The risk mitigation plan will probably have to be readjusted before school starts September 1, Wright said, noting that the school district is working with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state Department of Health Services, the state Department of Public Instruction and KT Gallagher, Dunn County health officer.

Wright said if Elk Mound’s plan seems similar to Colfax’s back-to-school plan and Boyceville’s back-to-school plan it is because the three school districts worked together and worked with Gallagher to have a plan that was consistent throughout the county.

In addition to five days a week in-person instruction with social distancing to the best of the school district’s ability, parents could also choose live virtual learning from an Elk Mound teacher that will allow students to view live or pre-recorded instruction. For grades six through 12, parents have the option of choosing virtual instruction through the Wisconsin Virtual School with teachers outside of the Elk Mound school district.

The letter to parents notes that Wisconsin Virtual School has recently informed the school district of a high demand for the program and that spaces may be limited or unavailable.

In addition to approving the risk mitigation plan, the Board of Education approved a revision to the handbooks for support staff, teachers and students related to the COVID-19 mask order and a revision to the visitor’s policy requiring all visitors to the building to wear a mask.

Both revisions note that masks will be required unless someone cannot wear a mask due to a documented medical condition.

“There is not a perfect plan out there,” Wright said.

The Elk Mound school district will adjust to the conditions as they change, such as if there are increasing infection rates or spikes in infection, “and do the best we can,” he said.

Parents have asked how the school district can consider five days per week in-person instruction when the county health officer is recommending a limit on gatherings of 25 people indoors.

The reason the school district can plan for in-person instruction is because of the risk mitigation plan, which has been approved by the Dunn County health officer and the school district’s insurance company, Wright said.

Staff

Also related to COVID-19, the Board of Education approved hiring additional staff as needed.

Additional staff could include custodians (for additional cleaning and disinfecting), bus drivers (for additional routes), paraprofessionals (to help the teachers), food service workers (extended food service hours or for split lunch times), and a health aide (to help the school nurse).

The approval gives flexibility to administrators to add staff as necessary within the budget, Wright said.

The positions will be posted before school starts, he said.

Elementary

Here are some of the rules for Mound View Elementary:

• Students will enter and exit the school by different doors, one per grade.

• Parents must drop students off the from the car and will not be allowed to walk their students to the classroom.

• Classrooms will stay together as much as possible.

• Non-essential items will be removed from the classrooms.

• Specialists, except for physical education, will go the classrooms to teach classes.

• There will be no sharing of supplies, no shared snacks from home and no birthday treats.

• Classes will eat in the lunchroom, by classroom, and part of the gymnasium will be used to help maintain social distancing.

• Teachers will hand out breakfast items rather than students picking up breakfast.

• The playground will be divided into different areas, and classrooms will play with their homeroom classroom only.

• Recess times will be staggered to reduce the number of students on the playground.

• Students will wash their hands before and after recess.

• Hand sanitizer will be available on the playground.

• Each grade may have different colors for balls, jump ropes and other playground items.

• Students will have lanyards for their masks when they are outside.

• Coats will remain in classrooms, and students will get their coats from their classrooms after lunch and go to the playground using their assigned doors.

• Only one grade at a time will use the bathrooms.

• Students will stay in the same order in line.

• Students will be allowed to use the bathrooms as needed.

Middle school

• D.A.R.E programming may be virtual this year, and Junior Achievement will be virtual.

• Student teachers will be allowed, but expectations will be discussed with each student teacher.

• Each grade level will enter (and exit ) school by a specific door and will immediately go to their homerooms.

• Students will not be using lockers to begin the year.

• Students will get their breakfast from the kitchen and bring it back to their homerooms.

• Students will be kept in their classrooms until dismissed to avoid large gatherings outside and will be dismissed over the public address system as buses arrive.

• Students walking to school or who are picked up will be dismissed at 3:15 p.m.

• Students will remain in their homerooms, and teachers will rotate classrooms, not students. During passing times, teachers will change rooms.

• Physical education classes will be outside as much as possible.

• Lunch periods will be adjusted so only one grade level will eat at a time, and marked seating will be used. Students will be allowed to eat outside if weather permits, and extra tables will be used.

• Students can eat in their homerooms if a teacher is present.

• Students will be out on the playground with their grade level classmates only, and indoor recess will be in the classroom.

High school

• All outside groups or individuals, such as recruiters for the military, Chippewa Valley Technical College and so forth, will be expected to set up virtual meetings with students and staff.

• Students will not be allowed to enter the building before 7:45 a.m., and they will be limited to the main entrance or Door No. 19. All other entrances will be locked. Students will report directly to their homerooms.

• Students will not be assigned lockers and will be expected to carry backpacks.

• Students will go through a preliminary screening in homeroom every day. Students will be required to enter and exit through the main office after 8:01 a.m., and they will be screened in the office.

• Students should get their breakfast from the kitchen and bring it back to their homeroom.

• Hand sanitizing stations will be located at each entrance.

• Students will not be changing clothes for physical education classes, and they should plan on wearing tennis shoes daily.

• Lunch periods will be adjusted, and marked seating will be provided in multiple rooms. Students will be allowed to eat outside if weather permits. Students will be allowed to eat in homerooms if a teacher is present.

• Masks will be required in all hallways and bathrooms at all times.

Other business

In other business, the Elk Mound Board of Education:

• Accepted the resignation of Kathleen Pribnow, Spanish teacher.

• Accepted the resignations of two paraprofessionals, Katie Ridings and Jennifer Johnson.

• Approved waiving athletic fees and admission fees for high school athletic events for the 2020-2021 school year because of the current economic situation. Eliminating admission fees also will help protect those who would be taking tickets at the events. The school district is hoping to have athletics this year, but waiving the athletic fees will mean one less thing for parents to worry about, Wright said.

During a closed session:

• Approved hiring Rosalie Linberg as a food service worker.

• Approved hiring Breanna Larson as the middle school/high school IMC teacher.

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