Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction or DPI suggests a student to teacher ratio of 10 to 1. Their guidance gives a few options to meet that ratio. One option splits classrooms into two cohorts. Half of the class attends in person Monday and Tuesday, while the other half attend Thursday and Friday. When students aren’t at school, they will engage in virtual learning.
DPI Senior Policy Advisor Jennifer Kammerud says the department is encouraging districts to consult their local health departments while reopening. “Our authority in this matter, in reopening schools is limited to providing them with information and guidance,” Kammerud explains. “School districts determine what school looks like in their districts. They are the ones who will make all the decisions about what their operation will look like when they come back in the fall, and every district will have to determine that, and they determine that differently.” Kammerud says that districts should recognize they will need virtual learning for students who are unable to be at school.
Guidance to limit the spread of Covid-19 include scheduled handwashing times, facing all desks in the same direction, and staggering lunch and recess times. Kammerud says the guidelines are in line with the CDC recommendations.
The DPI guidelines can be found here.
Yesterday the state assembly committee on education heard from educators across the state–some spoke at the capitol and others joined through video. Many voiced pride in their district and concerns for the fall. Oshkosh School Board President Barbara Herzog says her district is thankful for the DPI guidelines, but explains that finding new staff is difficult. “As a low-spending district, we do not have the financial resources to address the increased cost and the recommended staff to student ratio that are noted in the report,” Herzog says.
Last week, Governor Tony Evers announced over 46 million dollars of additional federal pandemic relief funding will go to K through 12 schools statewide. According to a press release, that’s in addition to more than $354 million flowing to K-12 schools and higher education under the CARES Act.
Florence School District Administer Ben Niehaus says time and resources will determine the quality of teaching and support students will receive. He does not support standardized testing in the fall, because students test scores will be lower. “We need to make up for that, and to do that, I need teachers teaching, and not teachers testing,” he explains.
Judith Parker is the principal at Dr. Howard Fuller Collegiate Academy in Milwaukee. She stressed that lack of internet access is an issue for students across the state. “Milwaukee students have the same challenges that rural students do. I really feel like it’s in our state’s best interest to fix this problem and fast,” says Parker. “A lack of access to wifi is like not having a seat in a classroom. If we know this is going to an issue for at least another year, we need more than a bandaid fix on it. We’ve know since the early 2000s that the digital divide was largely economic, we need to take a stand as a state and improve that,” she urges.
The future of sports is also uncertain due to the pandemic. Madison Memorial High School athletic director Jeremy Schlitz says that there won’t be one solution that works for all student-athletes in all schools. “We want to find ways to go back. Is it previous with no restrictions?,” he wonders. “Is it local contests only? Do we get rid of our multi-team volleyball invites to help mitigate some of that risk? Do we have to move to an intramural programing? Do we have to look at just training only? We just really need the safety, the empathy, and the flexibility of those who are not willing to, or at risk, to feel comfortable to choose or choose not to participate.”
Last week, Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association released guidelines for summer sports. It includes limiting shared equipment, screening for any symptoms, and nominating a Covid-19 coach to handle pandemic related concerns. Their goal is to allow sports in “any and all situations where it can be done safely.”