The Bayfield School District will open its doors virtually come Sept. 2 for two weeks with plans to move on to in-person two-day or four-day schedules and hopes that the school can eventually transition to a traditional five-day weeks.
But which option — from totally virtual to a normal classroom schedule — will entirely depend on the status of the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s all fluid,” Superintendent Jeff Gordon said.
Teachers, administration, health officials and others with stakes tied to the successful and safe opening of the new school year formed eight committees this summer to address concerns and find answers.
Rick Erickson, the high school science and alternative education teacher, led the instruction model committee charged with developing a virtual educational model plus two hybrid plans that mixed remote learning with a two-day or four-day schedule.
Bayfield teachers, students and their families were flung into remote learning with the school’s sudden closure in mid-March as COVID-19 fears flared across the nation.
“We were thrown into an emergency mode of instruction and did the best we could to keep students engaged and do what we needed to do to finish the year,” Erickson said.
But for fall 2020, the teachers wanted a better plan of attack to deliver an effective and rigorous education, wherever the pandemic stood.
Following the lead of the state Department of Public Instruction’s Education Forward: Safely and Successfully Reopening Wisconsin Schools, Bayfield plans to follow a four-tier approach.
As the plan stands now, the first two weeks of the school year will be entirely virtual. During the first week, students, staff and parents will learn Canvas, the district’s new remote learning management system, Erickson said.
The second week will focus on exploring families’ social and emotional wellbeing and teaching kids how to be good virtual students, he said.
The district will then adopt whichever of the hybrid options is best or allow parents keep their students at home. Erickson said he doubted that the school’s four-tier approach will unfold in a linear manner from virtual to regular schedule and instead bounce among the four as conditions dictate.
No matter what, teachers will be kept busy making lesson plans for the virtual and hybrid options — essentially doing three jobs, Erickson said.
Gordon said decisions on letting students remain at home will be made on a case-by-case basis, and meals will be provided.
Some parents want the students at home, while others believe school is the best educational spot for kids, he said. The district will have a better grasp of opinions after it reviews surveys filled out at the end of July.
In addition to scheduling options, the district has been consulting with the Bayfield County Health Department, Red Cliff Health Center and following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep students, families, staff and community safe.
Those measures include distancing students, requiring the use of facemasks and installing hand-washing stations in every classroom.
As for sports, activities will begin Sept. 1, although no games have been scheduled for that month.