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One-on-one interview with ECASD Superintendent after school board votes to partially reopen schools this fall

Published: Jul. 20, 2020 at 10:51 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Amie Winters of Hello Wisconsin sat down with Eau Claire Area School District Superintendent Mike Johnson Tuesday morning to talk about the school board’s vote and the challenges that lie ahead for the district this fall.

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Eau Claire Area School Board has passed the Eau Claire County’s “Respond Together Plan” to reopen schools this fall, with a mix of in-person and virtual learning for students. The plan passed in a 6-1 vote early Tuesday morning, after a nearly 4-hour discussion.

The school district’s plan consists of different instructional models based on a student’s grade level. Students in pre-k would have in-person learning twice a week on either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday.

Kindergartners and students in grades 3 through 12 would attend class twice a week on either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday and learn virtually the other three days.

First and Second graders would be in class four days a week and learn virtually on Wednesdays.

Wednesday will be used as a cleaning day for the buildings.

Many teachers and students joined the meeting to weigh in on the proposed plan. Some teachers expressed concern for staff and student safety along with simultaneously teaching virtually and in-person. Some parents say they want to send their kids back to school full time while others say it is too soon.

Brittany Ferrell says she's torn on what schools should do this upcoming year.

“We want to be with our students, but not at the cost of lives or people’s health and safety,” she said.

Ferrell teaches in the Eau Claire Area School District at Roosevelt Elementary, but she's also a parent of a student in the district.

“As a parent want to make sure i have plans and my kids are going to be safe while I’m working and making a living but at the same time i need to make sure that I’m protected myself, especially when i come home to my family but i also need to make sure that my students and their families are comfortable, protected, but also being educated because you know that’s what they need too,” said Ferrell.

Monday, the Eau Claire Area School District considered a proposed instructional model for the upcoming year.

As of right now most students under the plan would go to school two days a week, while being at home the other three days.

The instructional model is based off Eau Claire County's "Respond Together Plan" and guidance from the Department of Public Instruction.

“They’re making sure that six feet distance can be maintained and they’re looking at additional ways to make sure that kids and staff are protected. Their hybrid model is one of the ways that dpi proposed moving forward and they are utilizing that in their plan at this point,” Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director.

For students in the district, like High School Junior Matthew Berger, they say they’re eager to see their classmates again.

“Well I feel like if anything happens it would probably just be online, which would be kind of lame because i personally enjoy being in school and interacting with friends but i just hope it doesn’t have to get fully canceled, stopped, shut down i guess,” he said.

Milwaukee and Madison school districts have already announced they're starting the school year all online, and on Monday a teachers union from the state's five biggest districts urged Wisconsin leaders to keep schools closed to start the year.

But each district in the state gets to make its own decision, for now.

“The decision is hard to navigate and we’re going to trust that the health department and the district, you know everybody who is making these decisions is going to take all that into consideration when we’re deciding how to reopen,” said Ferrell.

Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.

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