As we start to think about putting together a plan for reopening schools in the Fall of 2020, the district has to consider a wide range of variables that will impact our individual schools, our district, our community and our State. The COVID-19 virus is such a new virus, that the scientific community is learning new things about it every day. The scary part about this virus has been the speed of this pandemic, the short interval between exposure, symptoms, and clinical outcomes, and the lack of a vaccine. The best way to keep our students, staff, and families safe is to follow the mitigation techniques of physical distancing, washing hands with soap and water for at least twenty (20) seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, covering coughs or sneezes (cough or sneeze into the sleeve or elbow, not hands), and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces daily.
We also know that we were able to successfully pivot from an in person learning environment to an online learning environment over a short period in March. Thanks to the hard work of staff members and students, this move to online learning was successful. However, we know that if we have to move to that scenario again in the future, we need to learn from this experience and make it better for our students and families. This also would not have been successful without the hard work and partnership of the parents who were often taking on the duties of working from home while supporting the learning of their children at home. We are so appreciative of the sacrifices people had to make and are really thankful to be partnering with you in your child’s education.
As we look at reopening schools, we need to do so with the following priorities:
- Safety is our #1 priority. We are obligated to keep students, staff, and families safe.
- The delivery of high quality teaching and learning. We have to stay grounded in delivering high quality instruction regardless of the environment.
- Operational Effectiveness. We can’t do long-term financial damage to the district.
With that as the backdrop, our district administrative team and the Board of Education are working on planning for the following three scenarios for the Fall of 2020:
- Reopening in a traditional manner in the Fall of 2020
- Reopening in a blended or hybrid manner (some in person, some virtual instruction) in the Fall of 2020
- Reopening in a completely virtual manner in the Fall of 2020
Regardless of how we reopen, there is a good chance we could be in any or all of these scenarios sometime during the 2020-21 school year as mandated by the county health departments or the State, so we need to have plans in place to pivot to each of these models.
We have started this planning process by working with other area school districts, relying on guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), State of Wisconsin Department of Public Health, Columbia County Public Health, and Public Health Madison and Dane County. We have also spent time reviewing school reopening plans from other states as well as try to learn from the experiences other countries have had as they have tried to reopen their schools. As we have begun our work, we have put together the following timeline in regards to making some of these difficult decisions:
- June 2020: Survey parents and staff about reopening options and work as an administrative team to develop school reopening plans for Fall 2020
- July 2020: Share tentative plans with Board of Education and develop a steering committee of staff and parents to review and give feedback on these plans and revise plans based on this input
- August 2020: Share revised plans with the Board of Education and continue to work towards implementation of the plans and then share out with staff, students, parents, and the community
We know that the guidance from the CDC, the State of Wisconsin Department of Public Health, Columbia County Public Health, and Public Health Madison and Dane County will be continuing to evolve during the summer and into next school year which will require us to make adjustments to our plans throughout the year. Our goal is to continue putting together plans that keep our students safe, provide a high quality teaching and learning experience, and not do long-term financial damage to the District. We need to do this all while continuing to serve the needs of all of our students and families of the Lodi School District community.
We appreciate your patience as we work through this difficult process throughout the months ahead.
Vince Breunig is the District Administrator for the School District of Lodi