Rhinelander School Board approves reopening plan
Details to come on which level of the plan will be used
By Eileen Persike
School District of Rhinelander students and parents will find out later today how the school year will begin. The school board voted 9-0 at Wednesday evening’s special meeting to approve the Hodag Re-Entry Plan for the 2020-21 school year which begins for all students Sept 2. The decision on which level of the plan will be in place is what will be decided today. The re-entry plan was sent to families last week, and it is available on the district website.
At the meeting, Burke stated several things that he “agrees with,” including that students are better off in school full time and with activities and athletics, that wearing a face covering can be challenging and that virtual and remote learning is “very difficult” for some students and families and that students need and deserve much more.
“I also agree that keeping kids of any age six feet apart is impossible at all times … that adults’ attitudes impact greatly the attitude of students and children,” Burke continued. “I agree that adult role modeling of wearing face coverings, physical distancing and hygiene, will have an impact on how long we are dealing with this virus as a society. I agree that listening to medical experts and science is critical and really, I believe there is no place for politics in these decisions.”
With those things in mind, Burke said the district’s top three priorities include safety for all students, staff, families and the community; student growth; and the social and emotional wellbeing of students and staff.
“Every day new information comes out that we have to sort through, and that will continue,” Burke said. “The plan will continue to evolve for as long is it takes, so flexibility will be important. I know it’s hard – I know that’s difficult and we will try to provide as much consistency as possible and we’re going to have to be flexible.”
Board member David Holperin said he is concerned not with the school district or the school, but the obstacles working parents face.
“We have many families both single parent and two-parent families that have to work and so having the kids home on a Wednesday or three days a week is as was expressed to me a gargantuan burden on those families,” Holperin said. “Will we provide some sort of daycare alternative or could we allow them into the school, on the premise, for that group of families that don’t have an alternative, that don’t have a parent in the house.”
Burke said the district knows that having elementary school children home on Wednesdays will be a burden on some families, and that for safety reasons the district will not be holding before or after school programs. The YMCA of the Northwoods is working several plans to help out, the organization’s CEO told the board.
“The YMCA started in March offering essential worker child care for early learning and school age children,” said Ryan Zietlow. “Working through the summer day camp we learned a lot about mitigation strategies. We’ve been following along with the district conversations and are prepared to respond appropriately,” and offer programs that would provide separate spaces for children from each elementary school, among other plans.
Holperin suggested carving out space in a district building for the children of parents who must work, to which the superintendent responded that the administration would look into it.
Burke indicated it was likely the district would open with the blended plan discussed last week, at level two, or “yellow.”
This plan has elementary students attending four full days in-person per week, working remotely on Wednesdays. Middle and high school students would be divided into two groups, attending two days per week in-person and working remotely three days per week.