JEFFERSON — The School District of Jefferson has switched students in all grades, 4K-12, to virtual instruction at least through the end of the month.
District Superintendent Mark Rollefson sent an email to students’ families Friday announcing the decision, noting that the reasons were twofold.
“First of all, we are all aware that the COVID data across our county and state are very high right now,” Rollefson said. “They have been high for several days now. Additionally, we continue to have students and staff test positive thereby resulting in exposures.
“Secondly, we have now reached a point that we cannot even logistically function,” he continued. “The number of staff members out of the district combined with a less-than-adequate number of substitutes has left us with many unfilled positions. This does not allow us to properly and safely cover classrooms, and other necessary areas of supervision and instruction. In addition, we have a number of custodians absent without substitutes trained in proper disinfecting protocols.”
Rollefson said that this inadequate supply of substitutes, staff absences and inability to properly disinfect the buildings, combined with the COVID positivity rate in Jefferson County, “pushes us over the edge necessary to keep our doors open.”
He said the district is planning to reopen the school buildings on Monday, Nov. 2. By then, the superintendent added, the staff will be healthy and they can properly and safely cover all classrooms and other staffing positions.
There is no school on Monday, Oct. 12, but it is a staff day for all virtual and student safe access planning.
Virtual learning begins Tuesday, Oct. 13.
Also, the School District of Fort Atkinson on Monday said they will continue with virtual learning through at least Oct. 26. The week average for cases in Jefferson County is 39.5.
The virus has spiked in Wisconsin since Sept. 1 with Wisconsin having one of the highest case totals per week in the nation. The number of COVID cases in the state have doubled since then. On Monday, the state reported another 1,956 cases.
Upon returning to school in November, each school will provide a safe access space for students who do not have proper internet access or a safe space to participate in virtual instruction, Rollefson said.
“Please reach out to your building principal, case manager, or pupil services team to indicate your student’s need for the safe access space,” he said. “Students must be assigned through this process to utilize the safe access space.”
For students in the Special Education and At-Risk programs, the staff will be working on how they can best work together to provide services.
“I know that our special education and pupil services staff are masters at creative approaches to learning, and that they’ll use their creativity to ensure that all students in the School District of Jefferson are offered meaningful and engaging education opportunities,” Rollefson said. “Based on information learned during our school closure last spring, teams will work to identify students with IEPs, 504s, or at-risk plans who will need a hybrid approach that includes face-to-face and virtual instruction to be successful during this period of virtual learning. There will be small groups of students that will be offered face-to-face instruction in the school building with masks and six foot social distancing at all times. There also will be an opportunity for students to join a supervised safe access space at school for their virtual learning daily.”
Students’ case manager will contact parents Monday to discuss plans for providing specialized instruction, supports, resources, and consultation.