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Green Bay to seek DPI waivers for 2020-21 school year

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – The Green Bay school board voted unanimously at its meeting Monday, Nov. 9, to seek a series of waivers from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for the 2020-21 school year.

The district, along with many others throughout the state, received a number of waivers last spring when schools were catapulted into virtual learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Superintendent Steve Murley said these DPI waivers are meant to do the same thing as the district enters its third month of virtual instruction, with a return to in-person learning still up in the air.

The waivers approved Monday would allow exemptions from state requirements related to instructional minutes, educator effectiveness and kindergarten as a prerequisite for first grade for students enrolled in home-based private education programs.

In terms of instructional minutes, Murley said he believes the district will meet the requirements, with plans to do so, but said staff recommends applying for the waiver to have it in place just in case.

Regarding the kindergarten prerequisite requirement waiver, Murley said it is for students whose parents opted to use a homeschool-based program for kindergarten this year versus enrolling in the district’s virtual kindergarten class.

District Legal Counsel Melissa Thiel Collar said because a home-based substitute program is only eligible for children ages 6 years and older, it is not possible to enroll a child in a homeschool program for 4- or 5-year-old kindergarten.

Murley said several parents chose to go this route – therefore a waiver is needed in order to allow these students to enroll in first grade next year.

Murley said more specific details will be sent out to all kindergarten parents soon.

The board held a required public hearing on the waivers prior to the vote.

Murley said more waivers could be brought to the board as the year advances.

To help pave the way for the waivers, board members approved the suspension of board policies in regards to the waiver topics.

They also approved the suspension of board policies for school board meetings and public participation related to COVID-19, which allows the board to continue to hold meetings virtually.

Blended learning plan

Though numbers are nowhere near a return to in-person instruction of any kind anytime soon, more details on what a blended model will look like when the time does come will be released soon.

Murley said his team will present specifics on a hybrid learning model at the next board meeting, Monday, Nov. 23.

Deputy Superintendent Vicki Bayer said staff is working hard on a solid plan for when students are allowed to return to classrooms in a blended capacity.

Murley said the plan will also include specifics on what parent outreach will look like.

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