As the COVID-19 case level remains very high in Columbia County, the Lodi School District will continue to follow the metrics laid out from its September meeting.
During the monthly meeting on Oct. 12, District Administrator Vince Breunig noted that the board could change course and go toward a reopening of grades 4K-2 like many other area school districts. The board had no interest in changing course as it was in favor of following the metrics.
The positivity rate of COVID-19 cases in Columbia County over the last two weeks was 30.99%, extremely higher than what would be accepted to institute a blended model for the lower grades. While Dane County’s rate isn’t nearly as high (2.99%), it too, is still higher than the acceptable rate.
Breunig noted that every school district that touches Lodi’s is in at least a blended model for grades 4K-2, and have seen very little spread within their respective school buildings. However, some students, teachers and classes have been subject to quarantines since the beginning of school in the surrounding areas.
Breunig later added during a presentation to the board that over the course of having buildings reopened, 31 staff members (of more than 200 in the district) were out during any point, including 18 that were out for 10-14 days due to quarantine.
It was also noted that about 100 students per week across the district have been in buildings to get the necessary extra instruction while in the enhanced online model.
If the district chose to not follow the metrics and switch to a blended model, staffing could be an issue if that rate continues, as well as a possible switch back to online instruction in that scenario. Breunig and the board would rather have the metrics dictate the return to the buildings, trying to limit — or even eliminate — the back-and-forth switch between instructional models.
The district did send out a survey to parents/guardians to get a feel of how the first month of the school year has gone.
The final question asked, “Knowing what you know today, if the metrics were to guide the district to move to blended instruction, which of the following options would you choose. The options were the blended model or to stay in the enhanced online model.
Blended was the answer from 85% at the Elementary School level, followed by the Primary School parents (83%), the Middle School parents (72%), the High School parents (70%) and the OSC parents (53%).
Looking back, Director of Curriculum Nicholas Karls wondered how different the answers might be if the “metrics” portion of the question was removed.
“Maybe some did blow through the question, but I think others know it’s an important piece,” Breunig said.
Board member Jill McKiernan wasn’t surprised by the numbers. The board knew that even in blended models, parents would still choose to have their kids learn via online instruction as the pandemic continues.
McKiernan and other board members — along with district administration —continue to stress that they all want the kids back in the buildings, but want everybody to be safe when doing so.
“I’d really love to say have 4K-2 in blended, but with the figures of Columbia County, that seems impossible,” McKiernan said.
Breunig added, “The metrics now don’t have us close to coming back to school.”
Also, in order to address the status of the upcoming winter sports seasons, the board agreed to have a special meeting on Monday, Oct. 26 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss that, and have action on the topic.
Hiking club to have pilot season in 2020-21
The board approved to pilot the Hiking Club for the 2020-21 school year, after Paula Tonn requested to start such a group for the middle school and high school students.
The club would act more like the Spanish Club and others, rather than like the equestrian or curling clubs.
The reason that the board chose a “pilot” season is because Board President H. Adam Steinberg noted that the board agreed not to add anything in these respects without looking at if there is anything to take away for possible balance of the budget. Given the current situation with the pandemic, the board agreed it was a good activity for students to have. Other committees will look at finances and structure, to see if there is something to remove for 2021-22 school year to balance out the addition of the hiking club.
“This is brilliant and an amazing thing to put in place,” Board Vice President Angela Lathrop said. “Even in a normal year I’d be impressed. I think a lot of kids would be interested.”
LHS senior voted on to School Board by student body
The Lodi High School student body was asked by Principal Joe Jelinek to vote for its representative to sit on the School Board. Through essay and video submissions, there were five students on the ballot. Ultimately, the students chose senior Nick Prosek as the representative, getting 43.5% of the votes.
“He runs in a lot of circles, so it does not surprise me that the student body decided to vote for him,” Jelinek said.
Prosek has competed in track and field for the Blue Devils, as well as being involved in various clubs, youth council, FFA and more.
The other four on the ballot were senior Sophia Boyer, senior Dorothy Deans, junior Ashley Richard and freshman Jameson Keichinger.