The Waunakee school district has announced that summer school will be held remotely this year, following guidance released by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) last week.

Enrolled students and their families were notified of the decision via e-mail May 13.

“Given the current health crisis and guidelines from the Department of Health Services and the new DPI rules,” summer-school director Sheila Weihert stated, “Summer School 2020 will have to be held in a remote setting this summer. We will provide virtual classes blended with some enhancements for hands-on learning.”

The district’s notice came approximately one week after an emergency rule issued by the DPI went into effect, expanding virtual summer- and interim-session courses eligible for state aid.

Prior to the order, only classes offered to students in grades 7-12 could receive state funding.

Under the agency’s new rule, online classes offered to elementary- and intermediate-school students would be eligible for the aid as well. The rule went into effect May 5 and expires Oct. 1.

“The objective of the emergency rule is to expand the grade levels in which school districts and county children with disabilities education boards may receive state aid in providing virtual instruction during summer and interim session courses,” the rule states, “as necessitated by the COVID-19 emergency.”

Waunakee parents expressed frustration with the news that remote learning would be the format in which summer school took place this summer, over social media last week.

However, the district has cautioned families against canceling student registrations from its program.

“Summer School programs play a key role in the Wisconsin School Finance System,” Weihert stated in the May 13 e-mail. “Summer School student-enrollment counts impact both a school district’s budget and the property tax levy.”

The director explained that a 50 percent reduction in summer enrollment from last year would reduce the 2020-21 budget by $130,000 and increase the 2021-22 mill rate by 38 cents.

She encouraged families to take the benefits of the district’s summer program into consideration.

“We plan to offer an excellent program and hope for robust student engagement and participation,” Weihert stated. “We hope you consider all the opportunities and benefits that summer school programming has to offer your family.”

The summer-school director stated that further updates will be provided to families.

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