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De Pere parents mixed on virtual learning

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – Parents and teachers around the country are finding there’s a learning curve when it comes to virtual learning, and those in the De Pere school district are no different.

Parents who spoke at the Monday, Sept. 21, school board meeting expressed mixed views on remote schooling.

Several mothers of middle school students questioned the efficacy of the blended model that combines two days of in-person learning with three days of virtual learning.

The parents said on virtual learning days, their children are getting their day’s school work done in 2 hours or less.

Annette Ostrom called the blended model “inefficient” and questioned why students on the east side of the river aren’t at school full-time, in-person like their counterparts in the West De Pere school district a few miles away.

She said businesses deemed essential remain open despite the pandemic, and the De Pere school district should, too.
“Virtual is just not working,” Ostrom said.

Susan Netzel said she had reservations about the blended model and suggested the district reevaluate its effectiveness before the end of the semester.

Anne Laurent said her two children, who are in a 100-percent virtual program, are thriving in it.

“It’s exceeded expectations,” she said.

Laurent said students put in longer days, work virtually in groups with other students as well as individually, take tests and get feedback from teachers.

“Teachers are getting to know them,” she said.

In a report to the board, district business manager Dawn Foeller reported since June, the COVID-19 pandemic has cost the district $381,363.

Included in the tally are items such as protective gear (face masks, face shields, thermometers, desk shields), cleaning equipment and supplies, as well as resources to accommodate online and virtual learning.

The report stated it could cost another $363,000 over the next few months for similar gear, supplies, resources and staffing expenses.

In board business, the board approved two new online instruction positions.

In a move meant to keep online class sizes low and its student-to-teacher ratio consistent with that of in-person classes, the school board approved adding two full time teachers to its virtual learning academy.

The move adds a third section to the existing two first-grade sections, in which 58 students are enrolled, and it adds a third section to the existing two second-grade sections, in which 60 students are enrolled.

The target student-to-teacher ratio for in-person learning is 21 for first graders and 22 for second graders.

The cost to the district for the additional salary and benefit packages for the two positions is about $140,000.

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