The Waunakee school district has commenced planning for fall semester, delegating preparation work among members of its administrative team.

“What we’ve done is started to populate categories of work,” superintendent Randy Guttenberg said, “to provide a framework that can be utilized by our building leadership teams which will consist of principals and staff from their buildings.”

Eleven areas of work have been identified in a living document entitled Organizing Framework – the go-to source for district planners to share updates in their reopening planning.

There, links to shared files can be found for the various categories of work.

“The information that comes here will then be in a place we can all access,” Guttenberg said. “This work is important because we need a place to hold the documents and plans being put in place, so that we have one central location to do that. So there’s an ability to link documents, and get to some of the work being transpired by the groups.”

The categories of work were part of a return-to-school plan drafted by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), which recommended that districts create a planning document for their work.

Whether public access to the shared files will be granted remains unknown.

“As those pieces start to become more specific,” Guttenberg said, “there’ll be opportunities to see what some of the high bodies of work are. The biggest pieces that we have coming back into the fall, though, really revolve around instructional delivery.”

The DPI released guidelines this week for the reopening of schools, in an 83-page document titled Education Forward.

Included in the document were several scheduling scenarios for districts to consider.

Scheduling options included a four-day school week, a two-day rotation, an A/B week rotation, and face-to-face learning for elementary students with virtual learning for secondary students.

“While I expect schools to reopen this fall,” state superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor wrote, “they will undoubtedly look different. There will need to be social distancing, new cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and changes to how educators deliver instruction… This means every school district will need to plan for both school operations on campus and remote learning.”

Waunakee school district Director of Curriculum Tim Schell presented options to school board members June 22, along with other scheduling scenarios such as alternating days and grade rotations.

Further options presented to the board included remote and in-person learning for all.

“We have a lot of scenarios to consider,” Schell said. “Understand that the way we open the school year is not necessarily how we will spend the entire school year. Conditions might become easier; conditions might become more restrictive. We’ll have to be flexible.”

Schell said it’s likely that most students would find themselves in a hybrid scenario for the fall, with virtual instruction supplementing any face-to-face time.

Students at higher risk for infection could opt out of in-person learning, he added.

One board member asked whether the district had the technological capability to share audio and visual with all of its homebound learners.

“Some of my questions are just questions I’m hearing in the public that I want to get out there,” Director Brian Hoefer said. “As far as instruction, do we have the capability of running live classes for those kids who don’t want to be in class?”

Schell noted that home-based education was something that the district had provided to students with health concerns in the past, but said it would depend on the number of at-home learners.

The curriculum director said face-to-face instruction would pose a greater obstacle.

DPI guidelines have recommended that student-teacher ratios be limited to 10:1, or fewer. Schell said following the recommendation would be infeasible from a staffing standpoint.

“We have projected for this fall about 4150 students in kindergarten through 12th grade,” Schell said. “We only have around 350 licensed educators. So even if we threw everybody at this, full-time…we’re not close to being able to do a 10:1 ratio.”

Schell added that he expects DPI to revise its guidelines in the near future.

District officials have sent a survey to parents to gather their feedback on scheduling options. Results should be presented at the next school-board meeting, on July 13.

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