Rural schools doing well holding more in-class days

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 6:28 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Rural schools in Marathon County have been running a greater number of in-class days per week than some of their larger counterparts.

“It was a yeoman’s effort, and I really think our rural schools responded great to all of those challenges,” said Marathon County Director of Education Kelly Kapitz.

Some of the reason for this is necessity. There are a lot of rural areas that don’t have the broadband to support widespread virtual learning.

That meant learning fast how to be creative in social distancing.

“In our elementary schools, they didn’t have passing times. They were separated into cohorts. And in our middle school. They ended up staying in a room all day and teachers would rotate through. And in that way we helped to mitigate the risk,” said Superintendent Rick Parks of the School District of Marathon.

Parks says maintenance, faculty and even student helpers work extra hard to make sure surfaces are constantly sanitized.

“Students touch things. Especially our shorter students. It makes it very difficult to stay ahead of that,” he said.

Special needs students stand the most to lose from not learning in class but it’s harder to get them to follow COVID-19 protocols, which took even more creativity. “For instance our students with autism (it being autism awareness month) there are ways to use social stories, or models for kids and teach mask wearing so it’s less frightening and less scary for kids,” Kapitz said.

In Spencer, rigorous precautions were also motivated by a fear of losing teachers.

“The biggest thing in this whole process is a teacher gets pulled out for 14 days, that’s a big thing because we can’t replace them in a lot of cases through subs or whatever,” said District Administrator Mike Endreas.

But Endreas says while everyone should follow health department guidelines fully, there is no one solution for every school.

“Know your resources, know what your setup is and apply it to those circumstances. Yeah, it’s definitely, you look and your neighbors and go, ‘Yeah the neighbors are going five days a week or whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s right,” he said.

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