Following the protocol set by the Walworth and Rock County Health Departments, the Whitewater Unified School District (WUSD) is set to opened its doors to in-person learning for students Jan. 18.
All schools, including elementary, middle and high school returned to in-person attendance to finish out the 2020-21 academic year. There was an option, however, to complete this semester all virtually as well for students who are high risk or have high risk family members. Live streams are available for those students, as well as students who are quarantining or are sick from the COVID-19 virus.
Michelle Clapper, a parent who has two children in the school district, chose to have both of her kids do the spring semester virtually instead of returning to the in-person format.
“We decided to participate in the virtual program for safety, but also because we knew public school could become very disjointed with teachers and students being quarantined, and classrooms occasionally being shut down,” she said.
Clapper does share, however, that her children do miss the environment of being able to go to school in-person.
“My kids miss having personal interactions with teachers and other students. They also really miss music, art and hands on projects. Sitting at a computer all day reading lessons is not as effective as hearing from teachers in person.”
In the fall, parents were given the options to help accommodate the spring semester ahead. Elementary students could opt for either the entire virtual learning or an in-person choice.
Both middle and high school students could either return in-person or fully virtual with live-streamed classes taught by their respective teachers, or the continuation of either the JEDI or Edgenuity platforms. Families were offered the ability to continue instruction virtually. A majority of 73.2 percent decided to return in-person.
The JEDI program was approved in 2016 for WUSD, to help link several school districts through tele-presence technology in Jefferson County. Edgenuity is also an online curriculum to help provide for high-risk students who can’t choose to go back in-person.
For their fall semester, the Whitewater Unified School District proceeded with a temporary virtual instruction plan from the beginning of Dec. up until Jan. 18.
As the district welcomes back its students to an in-person learning environment, health measures set into place by the CDC will be followed, including wearing masks, encouraging hand-washing, social distancing and quarantining students when exposed or contracting the virus.
“We are advocating for options for our staff to be vaccinated and have kept our staff updated on planning and progress of the options as they become available, said “District Administrator Dr. Caroline Pate-Hefty in a press release.
The health and safety of the students and staff is of the utmost importance to the district. It has been working with School Health Services staff, medical advisors, county health departments, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when determining protocols to be able to return safely back to in-person learning.
The district recommends parents and guardians to look for symptoms of illness in students each morning before they come to school. They also have a cumulative and daily average of close contact, symptomatic, COVID positive staff and students. This data will be updated weekly on Tuesdays by 4 p.m.
“By pulling together as a community, we can continue to support our students and the strong tradition of excellence at WUSD,” said Pate-Hefty.
More information about WUSD’s COVID-19 response plan can be found at www.wwusd.org.