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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — With cases of COVID-19 spiking in Dunn County, students at Colfax Elementary recently had an opportunity for “shutdown practice” just in case instruction must go virtual on short notice.
School staff sent home Chromebooks with students in grades kindergarten through sixth on November 3, and along with the Chromebooks were “cheat sheets” with assigned usernames and passwords, said Trevor Hovde, principal at Colfax Elementary, at the Colfax Board of Education’s November 16 meeting.
The idea was to have students, with the help of their parents, practice connecting to WiFi at home and to practice accessing Google Classroom, Google Meets, or Class DOJO for primary students, he said.
The students also logged into Accelerated Reader, myON through Renaissance, Reading Wonders through McGraw Hill, ALEKS, REFLEX Math, ISL, Moby Max, and STAR Reading and Math, Hovde said.
After the practice run, parents were asked to send a note back to their student’s teacher to share their successes or describe any issues they experienced, he said.
“We tried to identify any concerns at home with connectivity and identify families that would need hotspots,” Hovde said.
“I think it was pretty successful … we wanted to be prepared if we have to go virtual,” he said.
According to news reports, Wisconsin reached its first 100,000 cases of COVID-19 in seven and a half months, reached the second 100,000 cases in 36 days and reached the third 100,000 cases in 18 days.
Colfax schools have been able to remain open “so far, but we’re taking it day by day,” said William C. Yingst Jr., district administrator.
“The hospitals in the region are overwhelmed … (conditions) are changing daily if not hourly,” he said.
The school district has been monitoring student and staff numbers, and on any given day, about 10 percent of the students are out of school along with 12 to 13 percent of the staff, Yingst said.
“It’s a challenge here day to day,” he said.
The Colfax school board also reviewed the board’s policy on harm reduction, which includes requiring all students and staff to wear masks, that was adopted August 5.
The statewide mask order sunsets November 21 but also is being challenged in the state Supreme Court, Yingst said.
The days are running out on the mask order, and it is doubtful it will be extended, he said.
The policy approved by the school board in August states that students and staff will continue to wear masks until further notice, Yingst said.
Do the board members want to continue the policy? Yingst asked.
The harm reduction plan should be left “as is” and reviewed at the next meeting, said Jaci Ackerlund, school board member.
Other members of the Board of Education agreed.
“We will keep it as board policy,” said Todd Kragness, president of the Board of Education.
In other business, the Colfax school board:
• Learned that the Town of Grant had donated some of the township’s Routes To Recovery federal grant money so the school district could purchase additional thermometers to monitor student athletes for fever during the coronavirus pandemic.
• Learned that the girls’ basketball team began practice on November 16.
• Learned that the boys’ basketball team started practice on November 23.
• Learned that the wrestling team started practice on November 23 and that five students are participating this year.
• Learned that the Christmas programs are expected to be virtual this year for all students and that the middle school and high school choir will be performing virtually for the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center.
• Learned that the administrative team and the pupil service team are in the process of completing adolescent mental health training. The two-day virtual course satisfies the requirements for the grant from the Department of Justice.
• Learned that, with the last of the Department of Justice grant money, the double doors in the hallways will be outfitted with fobs and door-strikes so keys are not needed to lock or unlock the doors. Some additional cameras also will be installed around the school building.
• Received a notice of school board election on April 6, 2021. The positions occupied by Kyle Knutson and Kenneth Neuburg will be up for election.
• Approved policies as presented and recommended by Neola, the school district’s consultant on policies, for cost principles (spending federal funds) and procurement (federal funds). The policies follow federal law, Yingst said.