Fine tuning continues for Prairie du Chien public schools

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By Correne Martin


School supply lists are out and class assignments are being determined this week for the Prairie du Chien public schools. Parents are purchasing masks and hand sanitizer in addition to their usual supplies and setting up home school arrangements. Classes will begin Sept. 1. 

District Administrator Andy Banasik cited, in an Aug. 3 virtual administration meeting, that total enrollment numbers are too great in ratio to the amount of space available, —when considering 6 feet of social distancing is necessary per COVID-19 regulations—to have everyone attend five days a week in person, and still keep all students, teachers and staff safe and healthy. 

According to the 2018-19 district report card, district enrollment was 1,136. 

With most of the registration numbers in for the 2020-2021 school year, District Administrative Assistant Jackie Rodenberg said 137 students have open enrolled into the district thus far, while 49 open enrolled out. Last school year (2019-20), 127 students enrolled into Prairie public, and 37 enrolled out of the district.

The Mighty River Charter School has registered 36 students for its flexible online model this year, compared to an average of 23 in previous years. 

There are 68 students enrolled in 100-percent-live virtual learning for the school year. This means they will have the same curriculum as most of their counterparts, but rarely, if ever, step foot in the school buildings.

The remaining mass of about 873 students at the high school, Bluff View elementary and intermediate, and B.A. Kennedy elementary will be split among blended hybrid learning models. The majority—broken down into two cohorts—will attend a combination of in-person classes two days a week and live virtual classes two days a week, and possibly receive individualized learning on Wednesdays if that is needed. For students in 3K and 4K, they only have one option, which is two in-person days per week, at this time.

There will also be some students with “exceptional learning needs” approved to attend classes face-to-face five days per week. Those numbers were not yet available by press time. 

Amanda Wagner, director of special education and pupil services, said these students include kids who fall outside the normal range of development due to a disability or at-risk situation that could result in failure to meet basic academic proficiency. Students who have poor computer and internet access, as well as those who may have extenuating family circumstances, may be identified for five-day, in-person attendance. 

Banasik shared an example of potential in-person class opportunities, aside from those pre-determined exceptional cases. He said there may be a number of high school courses, such as AP biology or building trades for instance, that could have fewer than 10 students enrolled. The smaller class size would allow for face-to-face meetings. 

Bluff View Intermediate Principal Nick Haug said his staff has been taking inventory of its technology in order to ensure access to equipment for those families who need it most. 

For families who may need assistance in managing work schedules around their kids’ virtual school demands, the school district has reached out to human resources managers at a few of the large employers in Prairie du Chien, according to Karen Sjoberg, district academic and career readiness coordinator. 

“We’d like to work with them on drop off/pick up and virtual education needs,” Sjoberg stated. 

B.A. Kennedy Principal Laura Stuckey added that the district also contacted local day cares to see about more convenient access for pick up and drop off of the youngest students.

“It’s important that we start this way so we can get to that full face-to-face instruction as soon as possible,” Stuckey said. 

Sjoberg noted that spaces such as gymnasiums, theaters, conference rooms, etc., have been converted into classroom space to help spread out the students and staff. 

Student bus riders this school year are limited to no more than 36 per bus. In order to accommodate this, Banasik said additional routes have been added within the city and out in the country. Sjoberg said the school board approved an eighth bus to join the fleet, based on early enrollment numbers.

“There will be no students changing buses at schools (as was routine previously). It will simply be drop off at each site, including Prairie Catholic,” Banasik explained. “Masks are required on the buses.”

Considering the fluidity of the county’s COVID-19 compass and guidelines, Banasik said district administration has been and will continue to be in constant contact with county health officer Cindy Riniker regarding protocol for symptomatic and positive members of the school district. 

“(Should a student be sick), each school will have a room to station kids until they can be picked up,” Banasik shared.

He said the school will not be taking student temperatures daily as a precautionary measure, and the district’s stance is that responsibility is on the families. 

“If children have any symptoms, the parents should be determining whether to keep them home and/or test their son or daughter,” he commented.

The procedure for testing and quarantining if a positive case is identified is not yet known. 

With the start of classes less than two weeks away, staff and administration have been working diligently on all these details in addition to professional development, Google classroom and other technology scenarios.

“It’s not going to be a ‘normal’ year,” Banasik concluded. “Everyone is doing their part to start the year out positively. We don’t want to close. We want to be able to work with families, get some face-to-face time as well as social development time, which we know they need for their mental health as well as other aspects of their education.”

The Prairie du Chien public school system received $167,914.35 to help with COVID-19-related expenses. Sjoberg said, the county emergency management department has also assisted with masks, shields, gowns, thermometers, etc.

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