Students in the Rice Lake Area School District  began the second term of the 2020-2021 school year Monday. It is a point at which students can elect to change learning formats.

At its virtual meeting Monday evening, the Rice Lake Board of Education heard that the changes in learning have been minimal.

At the elementary level, nine students returned to in-person instruction, while one is opting for distance learning. At the middle school, two have opted for DL. At the high school, 22 students returned for in-person instruction while 31 requested out for DL.

High School Principal Curt Pacholke said many of the high school students going to DL are winter sports athletes who don’t want to take the chance of  coming into close contact with an exposure and being forced to quarantine.

District Administrator Randy Drost said as surrounding schools have done, Rice Lake is currently quarantining a section of students, 4K, at this  time.

Rice Lake Head Start is closed for in-person instruction Nov. 9-27. It will reopen Nov. 30. Likewise, Hilltop Daycare and Preschool will reopen Nov. 11 for in-person instruction of 4K students who attend there.

The board members discussed at length what would be the determining factor to change to a blended/hybrid or an all- virtual learning model districtwide. As long as enough staff is available, in-person instruction will continue, Drost said.

Pacholke said the hybrid model doesn’t solve staffing issues. High school student representatives Jonathan Nelson, Lily Peters and Wyatt Rogers, who listened in on the meeting, said high school students could handle the hybrid instruction, but it is more difficult to stay focused and motivated without the accountability of being in a classroom.

Middle School Principal Josh Tomesh agreed, with some teachers telling him hybrid, which is teaching both in-person and distance, is the most difficult of all the  options available.

He said the district’s form of instruction ultimately comes down to what is best for the students, and in his observation they just do not do as well at home as at school.

Board members and principals alike agreed that the required quarantines, not the positive cases, is the biggest problem at this time.

Board actions

• The school board approved employee use of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act leave through the end of the year.

FFCRA provides funds from the Department of Labor and is available to employees who must quarantine due to job-related close contact to someone with COVID-19.

FFCRA is applied to the first quarantine; employees’ leave balances are not used until  all available FFCRA leave has been used.

If the federal funds are not extended and a staff member tests positive after Dec. 31, sick leave must be used unless they continue to perform their duties remotely.

• The school board suspended the nomination papers requirement for the spring election due to COVID-19 concerns.

•  Acknowledged American Education Week, Nov. 16-20 when teachers and administrators will fill the airwaves on the local radio stations with educational topics at 7:10 a.m. on WJMC, 7:15 a.m. on WAQE, 7:20 a.m. on FOX and 8:30 a.m. on WJMC.

• Approved the resignation of Leiah Fundell as assistant varsity girls’ soccer coach; and the employment of Kelsey Dutter, forensics co-advisor; Bob Burdof, head boys swim coach; and Andrew Davids and Zach Schradle, JV basketball coaches.

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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