School boards to review reopening plans

A combination of in-person and virtual learning is likely
Warren Bluhm
News Editor

The Oconto Falls and Gillett school boards will be getting briefed this week on their administrators’ plans to open the 2020-21 school year under COVID safety guidelines.

“It is our goal to create a multi-faceted educational plan that effectively meets the learning needs of our students while providing the flexibility to modify operations as needed in response to changing levels of risk,” Oconto Falls Superintendent Dean Hess said in a July 1 letter to parents.

That probably will mean a combination of face-to-face instruction and the virtual learning that occurred during the last three months of the 2019-20 school years after Gov. Tony Evers ordered school buildings closed through June, Hess said. The plan will include the flexibility to convert back to an all-virtual model if deemed necessary, he added.

The planning process has followed guidance from Education Forward, an 87-page document from the state Department of Public Instruction that goes into minute detail about keeping students and staff safe during school operations.

Administrators were planning to brief the Oconto Falls School Board about a potential back-to-school plan when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 20. The board has been meeting remotely via Zoom technology since March; the public can access the meeting on YouTube — a link can be found by visiting and clicking on “Board of Education” from the “District” dropdown menu.

“I anticipate that this discussion will include topics such as the different instructional models that we are considering for the fall, transportation of students, ways that we can mitigate risks, social distancing, personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, and other key areas in the Education Forward document,” Hess said.

The Gillett School Board is expected to get an update on reopening plans when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. During the second of his “Toddcast” podcast reports, new Superintendent Todd Hencik said CESA 8 superintendents have been meeting weekly in hopes all local districts will have similar plans in place for the upcoming school year.

Input from teachers and parents is critical to the process. Hencik said parent surveys will guide the development of Gillett’s action plans, with questions to include parents’ preferences between in-person and digital learning, and what mode of transportation parents plan to use to get their children to school.

Both districts have a back-to-school advisory committee in place that includes parents, staff, students and community members.

“We are sharing information with the members of this group and listening to their perspectives on key topics,” Hess said.