De Pere to open some schools full-time Jan. 11
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – Students in the De Pere school district will continue with the status quo of learning virtually until after the new year.
On Monday, Dec. 14, the school board approved the plan to reopen.
The plan is for grades 4K-6 to start school full-time, in-person five days a week on Jan. 11, and for students in grades 7-12 in two shifts (or cohorts) to start with part-time, in-person learning, also known as blended learning, Jan. 19 and 21.
Students will have two days of in-person school, in two groups to reduce the number of students together at one time, along with two days of virtual school, and one day a week of independent learning (no classes in-person or online).
Students also had the option of attending school 100-percent online via the De Pere Virtual Academy, but the enrollment deadline has passed.
David Youngquist, board president, was the sole opposed vote.
He said he felt K-6 students should start at the same time grades 7-12 start.
“It is my perspective that there still could be a post-Christmas/New Year’s Eve surge, and I felt avoiding the chaos and frustration of quarantining kids was a better option,” Youngquist said. “Identical dates also provide consistency for families with kids in different schools.”
The 10-point plan for reopening calls for tweaks to the virtual aspects of the blended model, including having students attend virtual classes in real time with an interactive component and for assignments to be turned in the next day.
Parent Adam Clayton was among the 17 adults and one student who spoke during the hour-long public comments, which around 300 people attended virtually.
He said he supported a two-day-per-week format, adding he believed more days in-person compute to more chances of COVID-19 outbreaks.
“I would rather my kids do two days a week (long-term) rather than start full time and have an outbreak with everybody needing to quarantine again,” Clayton said.
Seven of the parents and the student who spoke cited mental health concerns for students as reasons to go back to full-time, in-person schooling on Jan. 11.
“Even if it doesn’t rise to a full-blown mental health issue, students are at-risk of becoming passive and alienated,” said Ann Patteson, parent of three students in the district.
A proponent of full-time, in-person schooling, parent Colleen Timm, said COVID-19 is serious, but attention should also be paid to other factors, such as plummeting GPAs, increased absences and the number of students no longer on track to graduate.
She said the blended model is a step back, and chided the district to “waste not 1 minute” to implement extra measures to keep teachers safe.
Other parents criticized the board for not answering questions via email, and accused them of not having a strategy.
Parent Greg Bosetski told the board to “stop hiding in basements; stop keeping our kids from interaction,” and to learn how to navigate forward, or step down.
Youngquist explained board members are not allowed to discuss business matters via email.
Parent Shane Meyer said kids are meeting in person without masks after school, and parents are going out to bars and restaurants without masks, so there was no reason for kids not to be back in school full time.
Parent Becky Bristol said if parents and kids are going out without masks, then that’s all the more reason not to open schools.
“We can’t have our kids being around kids whose families do not take safety precautions,” Bristol said. “Yes, it (the pandemic) has gone on too long, but the reason (COVID-19 case) numbers are so high is that people in the community aren’t taking it seriously.”
She added parent pressure should not dictate how the district handles a pandemic.
The board will discuss how to go forward with reopening schools for students in grades 7-12 at its January meeting.