Due to new guidelines laid out by the Wisconsin Department of Health, which state that students who return to school must be 6 feet apart from all other students while in class, Poynette High School has switched its instructional model for fall.
PHS will begin all classes in a blended cohort model. The decision was made at the Aug. 25 school board meeting.
At the July meeting, the school board approved all three buildings to have in-person instruction four days a week.
The Poynette elementary and middle school will stay in the approved four-day in-person model, while the high school is now moving into the blended cohort model, which splits the students into two equal-numbered groups.
In the overall model, “Group A” will attend school in-person on Mondays and Tuesday, then go to a virtual model on Thursdays and Fridays. “Group B” will be in the virtual model on Mondays and Tuesdays, then have in-person instruction on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be a cleaning day for the district buildings as well as online activity/instruction for all students.
The reason for the change is due to space within the high school classrooms and school building in general, according to PHS Principal Mark Hoernke.
“I really thought we could go four days a week, but it’s a space issue — there isn’t enough to maintain that 6 feet in all classrooms,” Hoernke said, adding that some students would be pushed against a wall or be stuck in a corner all day.
The four-day in-person model could have worked if the high school chose to suspend all electives and use those rooms as traditional classrooms. The administration felt that all those electives are vital to the students in their overall education and schooling experience.
The two groups will follow the same class schedules across the four grade levels, but just be in two different places. Whenever a student is virtual, he will have the same access to classes as his or her in-school counterpart.
With 19 kids in a classroom for four days a week, Hoernke said that the teacher’s main focus would be to manage the students to maintain they are keeping the proper distance from one other. In the blended cohort model, there will be about nine kids in each class, and then the teacher can focus on instruction, according to Hoernke.
Hoernke feels that even with two days of in-person instruction per week for each student, the situation can be very beneficial. The students are getting that much-needed face-to-face time, as well as motivation from teachers and helpful feedback with the weekly assignments and lessons.
It was brought up by a board member about whether or not the high school could use other buildings in the district to conduct classes. Trying to utilize space in other district buildings then becomes a staffing issue for the high school, Hoernke said. The district can then decide, with other guidance, when it feels it can make the necessary switches between models throughout the year.
The reason the two other buildings in the district aren’t in the same situation is because the new elementary school is big enough to accommodate the necessary distancing. Also because of that, the middle school now has the extra space to conduct its four grade levels in a safe manner.