The Waunakee school board adopted a decision-making strategy for reopening schools Monday night, following an approach similar to that of other districts in the state.
The strategy has been laid out in a two-page document available through the district website.
The document states that county and local data will be assessed on a monthly basis by members of a medical advisory committee, whose focus is to provide expert analysis of that information.
“There’s not a consensus that everything is going to stay within the isthmus or within the UW,” superintendent Randy Guttenberg said, referring to the virus. “And from a cautionary standpoint, we should be looking at our data to see if it is going to spread to other parts of our community.”
The committee could then use that data to make recommendations about bringing back students.
With grades K-2 now operating in a hybrid model, recent discussion has focused on 3-4 students. Committee members suggested that the district gather some data before considering their return.
Once grades 3-4 reopen, further data gathering would be needed prior to 5-12 recommendations.
“The reason we put that time frame between bringing the next cohort group in was just to make sure we have the processes, the staffing and so forth,” treasurer Jack Heinemann said. “The 3-4 group is going to tell us a lot of information that will help us make decisions on when to bring the next group back.”
School-board members agreed that they would review the committee’s recommendations 4-5 days after it met to guide their decisions on when to reopen additional grade levels in the district.
The board’s decisions will then be implemented two weeks after being reached.
“The instructional part is not the heavy lift,” Guttenberg said of the waiting period. “We are most astute at teaching face-to-face. It’s the logistics of getting us properly staffed, getting people arranged correctly and then the busing that would have to go along with it.”
Guttenberg shared recommendations from the medical advisory committee’s Sept. 16 meeting, which included “taking the next three to four weeks to gather more localized data and assess.”
Vice president Mike Brandt questioned the accuracy of the data-gathering period suggested.
“I was a little surprised by the scope of what we’re calling recommendations,” Brandt said. “I’m not entirely sure that this accurately depicts what was said in the meeting… I don’t mean to cast dispersions on how you wrote this up. It was just getting to that point where it said ‘three to four weeks.’”
Brandt noted that different members of the advisory committee had suggested different data-gathering periods, spanning 1-4 weeks, and that the actual recommendation was unclear.
The superintendent asked others at the meeting to weigh in on their own takeaway.
“What I heard is that we want to have our contact tracing in place,” Heinemann said. “If we open school tomorrow, we don’t have that in place. So I think where the three weeks comes from is getting that contact tracing… Once you have that under control, then you can bring 3-4 back.”
Also at Monday night’s meeting, the school board:
- Authorized administration to explore opportunities for more face-to-face instruction at the 5-12 grades level, on a motion by Brandt.
- Approved a medical-advisory committee meeting tentatively scheduled for Sept. 30, where medical experts will review metrics for reopening grades 3-4, as well as one scheduled for Nov. 4
- Approved additional school-board meetings to take place Oct. 5 and Oct. 26, at 6 p.m.