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Green Bay school district continues to plan for fall

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – Details continue to emerge about what the 2020-21 school year might look for the Green Bay Area Public School District, with a reopening plan draft promised by the end of the month.

“The team is hard at work,” said Superintendent Steve Murley. “We are still following the plan – hope for the best, plan for the worst. We also recognize (and) hope that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. At some point here in the not-so-distant future, we are going to have students back at school. We do recognize that kids back in school doesn’t look like it did back on March 12. So, part of what we are doing is making sure we are planning for both the learning environment and the operation components that support that return to learn with students present in the school.”

Murley gave school board members a few additional details of the plan at their meeting, Monday, July 20, which included a more detailed timeline, as well as more information about transportation and food services.

District work groups are now seeking feedback from secondary students, grades 6-12, through a survey.

Director of Communications Lori Blakeslee said all secondary students will receive an email with a link to the survey and have until July 28 to fill it out, and parents will be notified to make them aware of the survey and encourage their students to participate.

“We are reaching out to better understand student concerns,” Murley said.

One of the challenges the school district faces with a return to in-person instruction is transportation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend having only 12 students on a bus with a capacity of more than 70.

District Transportation Manager Chad Jensema said those guidelines are simply unworkable, and the transportation work group is recommending 50-percent capacity.

He said other issues the work group is focusing on are determining how many students plan to ride the bus – typically 8,000 students ride the bus each year – and cleanliness.

Jensema said buses will be cleaned after each trip, and hand-sanitizing stations will be placed on each bus for students to use when they get on and off the bus.

He said more specific details will be included in the draft reopening plan.

Another area expecting major changes is the school district food service department, because of the need for social distancing.

Director of Food Service Lynette Zalec said breakfast and lunch for students in four-year-old kindergarten through the second grade are planned to be distributed in the classrooms.

She said students in grades 3-6 will likely see a hallway meal service with meals eaten in their classrooms, and students at the middle- and high-school levels will pick up their meals in the cafeteria and return to their classrooms to eat.

Zalec said meals will also be available for parent pickup or home delivery for students who have to, or choose to, learn virtually.

Murley said much still needs to be figured out in regards to physical distancing in classrooms, hallways and common areas, and what cleaning protocols will be needed when students return to in-person learning.

He said the work groups will continue to work out these details over the next several days before releasing the district’s draft plan on July 31.

Murley said the plan will be brought to the board for a vote at its Aug. 3 meeting.

Board tables vote on Cup O’ Joy lease

Board members tabled a vote on leasing the former Cup O’ Joy property on Broadway, located just steps from the district office building.

With the uncertainty of what the 2020-21 school year will look like because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some board members were leery of making a decision on leasing the property before seeing the district’s draft reopening plan.

“I think it’s such a difficult narrative right now,” said Board Vice President Kristina Shelton. “I would like to see us be able to tie our vision for the school year to this, so it sort of makes sense.”

The district would use the property for the in-person registration process, as well as providing additional parking spaces.

Pete Ross, chief of operations for the district, said he expects even if school were to be all virtual come September, some students would still register in person.

The lease would be for two years, at $4,000 per month with an option-to-buy provision, where $2,000 per month would offset the purchase price.

“It isn’t an issue of space – we have space where families can come down and register,” said Board President Eric Vanden Heuvel. “The issue is that that space is very institutional, and the families that register in person are our most fragile families. And the experience that they get when they first come to our district is terrible, in my opinion. And it’s not anyone’s fault, because of the safety and security measures that are in place in that building. I have personally escorted families who have been lost looking for central registration. That experience hit me profoundly, and the fact that we have the ability to invest in our district. I understand we are in a pandemic, but that doesn’t prevent us from thinking strategically. We won’t be in a pandemic forever.”

However, not everyone agrees it is a needed expense.

“Our budgets aren’t going to look like they do,” said Trustee Rhonda Sitnikau. “We have to be smart like everyone else is doing and take care of our most marginalized, vulnerable and needy populations of our district – tutors for them, food delivery for them, extra counselors/social workers, anything we can think about. I can name 15 things that would work out better than a nice place to walk into to sign papers. We have a lot of space that is available. We could be creative and reimagine the spaces we have. This is what so many companies are doing right now, because they can’t just go out and take other people’s money and put it toward other buildings.”

The board is expected to vote on the lease at its Aug. 3 meeting.

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