Gillett School Board gets reopening update

Some parents choose all-virtual option for their students with classes five days a week
Warren Bluhm
News Editor

New teachers were scheduled to report to work at the Gillett School District on Monday, with returning teachers joining them Tuesday, as the district prepared to open the 2020-21 academic year in the shadow of a pandemic.

The Gillett School Board was updated during its Aug. 20 meeting on the upcoming 2020-21 school year, a year that begins with students and staff required to wear masks most of the time and football games without spectators.

“We’re working on the safety measures, they’ve been tweaked, they’re as ready as possible,” Superintendent Todd Hencsik said.

High School Principal Jason Dreier said the Marinette & Oconto Conference decided not to move fall sports to springtime, an option that the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association is allowing, but the season will begin with spectators not allowed.

A spring football season would be “risky at best” because of the weather in Northeast Wisconsin during March, when the games would be played, Dreier said.

“For example, Niagara would not even be able to have a football field for the first three weeks,” he said.

Board members said the conference plan makes it crucial that some sort of video feed be available, such as the Eye in the Sky (now known as Justagame Web Services) that has carried Gillett games online in the past.

“We need to be streaming if we’re not going to have spectators,” Board President Jamie Young said.

School will be in session five days a week, although parents were given the option of enrolling their children in virtual learning. About 25 elementary students, 25 in middle school and 33 high school students will be learning digitally, for various reasons, Hencsik said.

“With the system we have in place, I’m feeling pretty confident that we’ll be able to manage that,” he said.

The board last month approved a contract with Acellus Digital Curriculum, an online program that can be aligned with in-person teaching to provide a seamless part- or full-time virtual classroom. Both live and virtual students will be following the same instruction schedule.

Detailed letters were being sent to parents this week with information about how schools would be operating this fall. While the district will be following the state mask mandate, there will be designated mask-free times such as snack breaks, lunch and recess.

“We all understand that no one wants schools to close again, and the masks are a huge key to keeping our schools open,” Elementary Principal Curt Angeli said in his letter to parents.