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Green Bay school board approves reopening criteria

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – The Green Bay school district now has an updated plan in place to help guide a return to in-person instruction – at least for now.

The board voted 6-1 at its meeting Monday, Oct. 12, to adopt reopening criteria based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which highlights the risk of virus spread in schools.

“We have to use this (plan) as a tool to make decisions based on the information that we have and the partnerships and relationships that we have with experts here and at the state and federal level to make decisions,” said Kristina Shelton, board vice president. “This is a guide. A guide to help us think through how we make decisions so we can operationalize the decisions that we make on the ground level in the schools. This isn’t something that is super clear, because this isn’t a situation that is super clear. We are going to come back again, again and again because information is going to change again, again and again. It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s the best one we have now.”

The five-level model for reopening criteria (lowest, lower, moderate, higher, highest) looks at case burden and the ability to mitigate virus spread within schools.

According to the plan, offsite learning will continue until cases in Brown County drop below 100 per 100,000 population for two consecutive weeks.

A transition to blended would happen when cases are between 20 and 100 cases per 100,000 for two consecutive weeks.

And fully onsite instruction would not happen until cases drop below 20 per 100,000 for two consecutive weeks.

Trustee Andrew Becker said he doesn’t agree with the guidelines.

“We are not going to get there probably this year,” he said. “I don’t like choosing a metric that essentially gives us no hope of going back to school fully.”

Others were confident in following expert recommendations for the reopening criteria.

“Whether or not it’s a daunting number, it’s a number that the CDC has given us for it to be safe for our kids to go back to school,” said Trustee Dawn Smith.

None of the metrics the board has discussed over the last three months has the district anywhere near returning to any kind of in-person learning.

Some board members are putting responsibility on the community and looking to it to slow the spread.

“I want to make it absolutely clear to anyone watching this, the only thing that is going to get us to open our schools is the change of behavior of members of our community,” said Trustee Laura McCoy. “And it’s not in just our community, it’s across our entire state. Our state is in the news in an incredibly negative way right now. And I just want to basically beg and plead for people to examine what they are doing, and what they are doing to help mitigate the spread of this virus.”

Administration will reevaluate the plan on a weekly basis and it will be revisited by the board at the Dec. 14 meeting.

Becker proposed an amendment that attached a sunset clause to the motion, which requires the board to revisit the criteria at the December meeting. It passed 4-3.

“This is not chiseled in stone,” Shelton said. “This is a flexible document that will be constantly and consistently reevaluated to make sure that we are adjusting. Everyone wants to go back to school, it’s just we want to do it in a way that makes sure people are safe.”

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