Staff comments ringing fresh in their ears, the Sun Prairie School Board learned during its July 13 meeting that administration will present a plan on July 27 for classes to resume this fall in the Sun Prairie Area School District (SPASD).
Superintendent Brad Saron sent an email to parents on July 14 with a link to his presentation materials from the July 13 meeting and a survey that will help guide the board and administrative team’s decision making process.
Saron said the district administrative team will be guided in its recommendation by surveys of district parents and staff as well as any restrictions or orders from Public Health Madison Dane County.
Using the slogan, “Ready to Pivot,” Saron made an exhaustive presentation showing the process being used to make a decision and to come to a recommendation that included a July 27 presentation to the Sun Prairie School Board.
But staffers emailed their thoughts that were read during non-agenda related comments as part of the board’s July 13 meeting agenda, with most of them pleading for the board to begin the school year online.
Eleanor Brinsko, a music teacher at Royal Oaks Elementary, asked to begin the 2020-21 school year with distance learning.
“I worry about the physical and emotional safety of our Rockets if we return in the fall,” Brinscoe wrote, referring to the school mascot. “They will not be returning to the Royal Oaks that they know and love.”
Because Royal Oaks is an open concept school, there are — with few exceptions — no walls dividing classrooms, with 450 people in the same open room, sharing the same air.
“I ask you to please have us start the school year with distance education . . . I want to be able to greet the kids at the beginning of the school year with a face not hiding behind a mask,” Brinscoe added. “I want kids to sing loud and proud in their homes as I lead them in song online.”
Token Springs Elementary music teacher also asked to begin the year online, saying that the COVID-19 virus will not allow the fulfillment of the mission to provide the best education for students.
“If students fall ill — or even die — we will have no opportunity to meet the educational needs of our students, both current and future,” Boersma wrote.
Middle school teacher Kristina Shatley said she does not plan to send her child to school if classes resume in person this fall.
“I do this to both protect my own family and to be a responsible citizen for the rest of our city,” Shatley wrote. “However what does that leave me, as a district teacher, to do? I’m now faced with the decision to stay home with my child as he does his virtual learning or continue the job I love so dearly, putting my own family at risk. I suspect I am not the only district employee facing this situation.”
Cross Categorical Prairie View Middle School Teacher Leah Behr asked the board to consider those with severe disabilities when making the decision to re-open classes in person or not. She said distance learning was socially isolating for them and the closure in March due to COVID-19 “brought to the forefront the lack of technology know how that these students have.”
Behr said these are the same students who need help in the bathroom, have serious health complications with stamina challenges to make it throughout the day. “These are the students that teachers won’t be able to keep at six feet distance,” Behr added. “I am so scared for these students and the staff that are supporting them if in-person learning commences in the fall.”
During the presentation, Saron and SPASD administrator Nick Reichhoff said there will likely be three options: Attending school four days a week, with the school closed on Wednesdays for deep cleaning; a hybrid option that includes kids attending two days a week with online learning the other three, including Wednesdays for deep cleaning; and a completely online option.
Saron asked that staff, parents and students keep in mind that the decision — whatever is made — will likely disappoint one or more groups of people. He said whatever the recommendation is will have to include options that allow the ability to quickly pivot to another plan.
“This decision is complex,” Saron said, “and there are a lot of things that are playing in to making this decision.”
While there may be a temptation to go completely online, Saron also asked the board and audience members to remember that some students don’t have access to wireless internet or have a parent at home with them to help them solve problems or work through difficult assignments.
School Board Vice President echoed some of Saron’s remarks, especially the satisfaction with the final recommendation: “I know everybody is not going to be happy with whatever comes out on the back end.”