Marathon Co. Health Department supports in-person learning as long as it is possible

Members of the D.C. Everest School Board spoke with a health department representative during a board retreat Wednesday
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 9:47 PM CDT
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WESTON, Wis. (WSAW) - Wednesday night’s D.C. Everest School Board Retreat allowed for board members to ask both administrators and officials with the Marathon County Health Department questions regarding the district’s back to school plans shared with families last week.

“The school board has had great questions and engagement throughout the process,” explained Assistant Superintendent of Learning Casey Nye. “They had some specific things they were interested in hearing, so we were fortunate that the health department was willing to come and specifically field those health-related questions.”

Amanda Ostrowski is a Certified Health Education Specialist with the Marathon County Health Department. She participated in the virtual meeting, fielding questions regarding COVID-19, and the logistics of having in-person classes resume.

“The health department does support in-person education as long as it is possible,” Ostrowski explained to the board. “Creating these plans is important because if you’re able to do it, you can stay in person longer.”

The plan currently in place looks to have elementary-aged students attending classes in person, Monday through Friday.

Nye says that comes after a lot of input from parents and businesses within the community, as well as the particular needs of that age group.

“Our families were loud and clear and employers and our business community; they know that that part of our community, our really young students and the parents of young students, really need that experience more than our older students do,” Nye said. “We also want to take advantage of all the diversity of our experiences at the upper, so we are trying to make sure that kids can get in the door and take advantage of, especially our great new referendum impacted spaces, and learn in those environments as well.”

Nye says the staff and teachers have been a big part of putting the plan together, adding that each school will have a building leadership team entirely representative of staff within that building so that they are able to have more direct involvement in the planning.

“They really represent all different groups within the school, so our plan has kind of been scaffolded across the district but has included a lot of teacher involvement there,” Nye said. “Like parents, though, many of our teachers are still looking for that finalized plan and although it will continue to be nimble, we’re getting really close to being able to share that information with everyone.”

Those details regard the middle, junior, and senior high school plan which will separate students into separate cohorts, with A attending in-person class Monday and Wednesday and B attending in-person Tuesday and Thursday. The two groups will alternate on Fridays.

Nye says that information for parents and students is just days away.

“That communication I hope will be out as late as early next week, and it could be sooner than that. That will help parents really understand the details of what it looks like and give them additional opportunities to select how they want this experience to look for their students.”

Along with those details, it remains to be seen how effective the plans in place will be, with Ostrowski explaining how one positive case in a classroom or a household could lead to that entire class being quarantined.

“How a classroom would become quarantined is if that positive student was present in a classroom during their infectious period and social distancing of six feet was not maintained. Even if they were using masks, even if there were desk shields,” Ostrowski said. “If a positive child is living in a household where they have two siblings, both of those siblings must remain quarantined because they are household contacts, and they are quarantined as soon as their sibling tests positive through their siblings’ well date, plus an additional 14 days.”

Ostrowski added the additional time is due to the amount of time it can take for some to show symptoms of the virus, saying that the longest quarantine period in Marathon County has been nearly 6 weeks.

If a student tests positive, those precautions will impact the parents, just as they would impact the students if a parent were to test positive.

As Joshua Dickerson explained during the meeting, it’s important not only for the school district to educate students about the importance of taking COVID-19 precautions but families and businesses in the area as well.

“The education aspect of it, to me, is going to be critical if we’re going to be able to keep our schools open,” Dickerson said. “It starts in our classroom and it starts in the businesses within the community and how we set the tone.”

Bruce Krueger echoed that thought, stressing the importance of taking action now.

“It needs to start today, tomorrow. Support and encourage one another that these are the things we need to do,” Krueger said. “We want to get our schools reopened and want to hopefully get back to what we all remember and miss dearly. I think we have an opportunity to be a part of the solution here and to be a model community and a model district.”

“Being a graduate of Everest, a parent of Everest,” added Katie Felch. “I know we rise to the challenge.”

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