SDMA Update 7-14-20

SDMA Update 7-14-20
Posted on 07/14/2020

Dear SDMA Families and Staff,

Last evening the school board reviewed the attached report about COVID-19 and the planning that is ongoing in the school district. Thank you to everyone who completed the family and staff surveys (a summary of the survey data is included at the end of the COVID-19 report). Your input is very helpful in developing plans for next year.

The planning process in the SDMA will continue throughout the summer, but here is an update on where the process currently exists in the school district:

  1. Reopening plans in the SDMA are being developed with three primary scenarios of (1) having school in-person, (2) a blended/alternating day option of both in person and remote instruction, and (3) providing all instruction remotely. There will also be a fully virtual program available for any families in the SDMA who prefer that option.
  2. The SDMA fully intends to open all schools in the fall for in-person learning five-days-per-week, but safety measures will be implemented to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Screening for symptoms at home and upon arrival to school, physical distancing as much as practical, cohorting groups of students, eliminating large gatherings, limiting visitors into buildings, and the targeted use of face coverings are safety measures that students, staff, and families can expect at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. Depending on the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community, other mitigation measures (like the required use of face coverings at all times in our schools) might be needed.
  3. Thresholds are being developed in conjunction with the county health department to determine the aggressiveness of additional safety measures that may be needed, as well as if/when schools may need to move to a blended or fully remote option. The new Dunn County Dashboard provides some important measurements for tracking these thresholds. If the COVID-19 BURDEN in Dunn County reaches the HIGH level AND the TREND indicator is an upward arrow (^), OR if hospital capabilities in our region reach surge capacity, additional mitigation measures will be needed. Also, we have to realize that plans and thresholds may change during the year as more becomes known about COVID-19.
  4. The SDMA is working hard to be a leader in our region, state, and across the country. In the event that our schools need to employ a reduced enrollment plan to maximize physical distancing in our schools, the SDMA will be ready. Schedules at the middle school and high school are being modified to accommodate the possibility of a smoother transition to an alternating-day or fully-remote schedule for students in grades 7-12. It is anticipated that the 2020-2021 school year will begin with in-person schooling five-days-per-week, but it is very possible that circumstances could change sometime during the year.
  5. The SDMA plans to do everything that we can within reason to keep our schools open. Last night the Board unanimously agreed to hire up to 20 additional K-6 teachers in an effort to keep all our elementary schools open as much as possible, and to provide an everyday option for 6th grade students.  Even if an alternating-day schedule is implemented at some point for 7-12 grade students, the SDMA plans to be open five-days-per-week for students in grades K-6. This will require the district to reallocate some spaces in our buildings not typically used for core classroom instruction, but everyone understands how much families rely on schools to provide daily instruction, support services, and child supervision. Responsible use of school district resources and wise financial decisions in the SDMA has put our school district in the envious position of being able to afford this expanded option for the 2020-2021 school year.
  6. Please understand that despite all of the efforts, it is possible there may be a time (or times) when schooling in the SDMA will need to be fully remote for all students. While we really hope that this option will not be needed, the feedback provided in the surveys administered earlier in the summer is being used to improve the remote instruction experience. 
  7. There are still many questions and unknowns related to whether or not sports and other activities will be able to be held this fall, but at this point planning continues as if sports and activities will be allowed to start on time.

Again, this pandemic is an evolving situation with guidance that continues to change. The school board has directed district administration to do our best to align plans with the expectations of the community while following the guidance offered by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the Department of Health Services (DHS), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). COVID-19 is real, and we want to do all that we can to help keep our community healthy and safe. 

More information about reopening plans in the SDMA will be shared with families at the end of the month. In the meantime, please do what you can to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community.  Good personal hygiene (washing hands), social distancing, and wearing a face covering in public (especially when social distancing is not able to be achieved) will go a long way in allowing schools to fully open on September 1.

Thank you.

Joe Zydowsky