Five-day in-person learning eyed in Manawa
School board to decide in January
By Greg Seubert
If things fall into place, Manawa School District students will return to their classrooms five days a week for the second semester.
District Administrator Melanie Oppor updated the Manawa School Board at its Dec. 21 meeting on the district’s current plan for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
That plan includes all students attending school five days a week beginning Tuesday, Jan. 26, the first day of the second semester.
“We’re hoping that the worst of it is over,” Oppor said. “We believe that all the mitigation strategies that have been in place are the reason why we’ve had such success in school. We learned that numbers across Waupaca County for (the) incident rate has dropped dramatically. We are back to the kinds of numbers in the county that we haven’t seen since September, so that is amazing.”
The number of covid cases are generally going down in area school districts, according to Oppor.
“A couple of our neighbors, Marion and Iola, are down to practically no positive or students out on quarantine, so that’s looking very positive,” she said. “Unfortunately, in Manawa, we have one of the higher incident rates and our numbers are actually going up rather than down. We’re hoping that’s just a blip on the radar. I’ve talked to the administrative team and our goal is to work on the reopening plan and start to make a shift toward having all students back five days a week for second semester and also looking at some of the other opportunities.”
Those include elementary students returning to art class in the art room and allowing more spectators for home basketball games and wrestling meets.
“Can we start to open the door a little bit at a time to see if we can still maintain all our mitigation strategies and still keep those incident rates in the district and in the county coming down while trying to take baby steps toward the new normal?” Oppor said. “That’s a really tall order that we’ll be bringing back at the January board meeting.”
The switch would come after a week of already-scheduled virtual learning following the district’s Christmas break.
“We know it’s better for kids to be in school face-to-face with their teachers, but we want to do it safely,” Oppor said. “It’s probably the biggest challenge for the high school because in some of the classrooms, the size is a bit smaller, so we aren’t going to be able keep students 6 feet apart in some of those classes.
“Many of the classes probably have 25 to 27 students and there may be some classes larger than that,” she added. “They will be closer together and would need to keep their face coverings on. I know the teachers will try to distance the student desks as best they can, but it probably is not going to be the 6 feet.”
An exposure at the high school would likely mean a temporary return to virtual learning, Oppor said.
“If we do have an exposure at the high school, close contacts are probably going to be fairly significant, so it would probably be the whole high school going virtual,” she said. “That can be stressful if the high school is open for several weeks and has to close for a week or two. I don’t know about the stability of that and what it’s going to feel like to teach in that environment. It’s certainly something to be mindful of. The principals will definitely be talking with staff about how to make this work effectively.”