Waunakee superintendent Randy Guttenberg gave a first-day-of-school report at the board of education’s Sept. 8 meeting, sharing his observation of virtual instruction throughout the district.

“It’s a very different start to the school year,” Guttenberg said, “in that there’s not buildings full of children. But what I saw was many teachers very actively engaged in meetings with their students, engaged with remote learning and following through with the pieces that they’ve put forth.”

Grades 7-12 began with a soft start the week of Sept. 1, followed by grades K-6 seven days later. All but K-2 have begun the year with virtual instruction, due to public health orders.

Guttenberg told board members he had visited each of the schools to observe that process.

“It was interesting,” Guttenberg said, “being able to get into a few classrooms that were teaching virtually and just seeing how they were set up. That was quite impressive, to see our staff and how they’ve devised their classrooms to deliver their online curriculum.”

The delivery model has brought its challenges, however. Some have encountered glitches with videoconferencing software, while others report problems logging into their Google accounts.

Guttenberg said the district has been working to address those issues.

“Obviously we have a lot of technology pieces that are moving with the start of the school year,” Guttenberg said. “But overall, with all the tech-heavy work that has gone into this, I think things have gone fairly well.”

At the K-2 level, Guttenberg estimated that only a third of students had opted for virtual learning. The other two thirds have begun the school year with hybrid instruction.

Exact numbers should become clearer as the month progresses.

“From an elementary perspective,” Guttenberg said, “it was great to be in a building where you had some kids…interacting with some of our staff. I think that it was a successful start to the school year in that respect.”

Transportation was observed by members of administration as well as the school board, with vice president Mike Brandt chaperoning one of the buses en route to school.

While ridership was low, Brandt said the ride went smoothly.

“I haven’t ridden a school bus in 30 years,” Brandt said. “But it’s the first day of school for a lot of those kids, and I think everybody did really well. Mr. Marty did great with them on the route I was on. So I was really impressed by everything.”

Guttenberg acknowledged miscommunication between the district and some parents requesting busing, adding that administrators would work with Lamers to accommodate those requests.

Participation in the meal program was similarly low, said director of operations Steve Summers.

“The interest was lower than we had expected,” Summers said. “So we’re going to have to work on that a little bit. It’s a bit challenging because we’re asking our youngest students, first thing in the morning, if they are wanting a meal to take home with them (nearly three hours later).”

Guttenberg said the district would be reviewing its communication to parents about the meal program, to ensure that they understand the way in which it works.

On a positive note, Guttenberg said the family-meal program has been “hugely successful.”

Following the school board’s Sept. 8 meeting, the Waunakee Teachers Association (WTA) released its own statement regarding the start of the school year.

“The WTA is pleased to report that the first week of the 2020-21 school year with students went relatively smoothly; many educators experienced good attendance from students, few technological hiccups, and a general adherence by students to the new safety and social distancing protocols the district has put in place,” the statement reads.

Also at the Sept. 8 meeting, the school board:

- Approved out-of-county travel for athletes competing in WIAA tournament competition.

- Passed a resolution of support for its ad-hoc committee on equity and inclusion.

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