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Oshkosh school board to consider 2020-21 reopening plans during Wednesday meeting

Oshkosh Northwestern logo Oshkosh Northwestern 8/1/2020 Alex Groth, Oshkosh Northwestern
a green and white street sign sitting on the grass: Oshkosh Area School District Administration Office, 215 S. Eagle St. © File/Oshkosh Northwestern Media Oshkosh Area School District Administration Office, 215 S. Eagle St.

Editors note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Oshkosh Area School District will not accept public comments online during its next school board meeting. 

OSHKOSH – School board members will consider district staff recommendations for resuming classes for the 2020-21 school year at Wednesday's meeting.

The district on Thursday released four options: traditional in-person classes, in-person classes with precautions such as social distancing and enhanced cleaning efforts, a hybrid of both in-person and online classes and totally online. The school board will consider the options and decide on a model for each grade level at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Perry Tipler Middle School, 325 S. Eagle St., Oshkosh.

The meeting will be broadcast on the district's YouTube channel, and there will not be an online submission for people to leave comments online. Opportunity for people to make agenda related comments will be allowed during the in-person meeting.

Recommendations call for in-person classes with precautions for elementary students and a hybrid model for the middle and high schools, under which students would attend school in person every other day and work remotely on the other days.

"We're hoping that people are seeing our plans as pretty through and well thought out," Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said Friday in an interview with the Oshkosh Northwestern. "We worked closely with health experts to help with some of these areas."

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Students also may enroll in the eAcademy as a yearlong totally virtual option. This is available to all K-12 students for both semesters of the 2020-21 school year. Families had to have enrolled for the option by Friday but will have until the end of next week to make a final decision to stick with the eAcademy.

The model of in-person, hybrid and virtual learning could change depending on recommendations from the Winnebago County Health Department and the status of COVID-19 in Oshkosh, according to the district's plan. 

"We will provide as much notice to families as possible if we have to switch within the models. There are circumstances where it might be the night before," Cartwright said.

A study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association said infected children have as much of the virus in their nose and throats as adults. The study does not prove children can pass COVID-19, but continuing research may change reopening plans, Cartwright said.

"It's a very fluid situation. You've seen the recommendations are changing, and it's an ongoing matter," she said.

Face coverings would be required for students, staff and visitors in school facilities and on buses, according to the district's plan. Staff would include breaks for students from face coverings throughout the school day. The number of breaks would depend on the age of the students. If students or staff do not wear face masks, the district said they would be subject to disciplinary measures. 

Families would be notified if there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students or staff at their children's schools. If students had direct exposure to those infected, they will be required to follow Winnebago County Health Department guidance of isolating for 14 days or longer, according to the plan.

It's not clear how absences will work for students or staff if they are exposed to COVID-19. Plans will be determined on a case by case basis, said Cartwright.

Plexiglass shields would be installed in high-traffic areas, which could include secretary desks, visitor entry points, circulation desks and food serving windows. Sanitation stations with hand sanitizer will be located at entrances and other high traffic areas.

OASD Update

OASD Families - Please check your IC Parent Portal or this link (bit.ly/318fsQq) for an important update from the OASD.As previously announced, the proposed OASD 2020-21 School Year Plan will be presented to the OASD School Board during a special meeting on August 5, 2020. The Board Workshop presentation, including the proposed plan and protocols, have been shared to help families and staff understand and prepare for the 2020-2021 school year. Following Board discussion, the final OASD 2020-21 School Year Plan will be shared with families and staff by August 7, 2020. Additionally, a 2020-21 School Year Plan webpage is now available and will be updated as our plans are finalized (www.oshkosh.k12.wi.us/families/2020-21-school-year-plan). We encourage you to keep checking back for the latest information.We understand that this is a lot of information, you may have many questions, and you may not agree with the proposed plans and/or safety protocols. Our ask is that you continue to partner with us and continue to keep our common goal in mind - providing an exceptional education and doing what is best for our children. By continuing to work together, we can advance education safely and help our students continue to learn and grow. #BuildingCommunityThroughEducation

Posted by Oshkosh Area School District on Thursday, July 30, 2020

Schools would limit the number of students in the cafeteria and create a seating chart for lunch period so they aren't seated directly across from each other, if possible. Tables would be at least 6 feet apart.

Visitors would be limited to essential personnel, such as postal carriers and volunteer recess supervisors, according to the document. They would get their temperature checked and need to wear a face covering. Extra-curricular activities, including sports will occur following WIAA guidelines, said Cartwright.

According to a district survey, 83% of elementary parents and 85% of middle or high school parents said they would send their child back to school. Meanwhile, a majority of staff reported they are highly concerned about safety and health risks and enforcing safety measures.

Cartwright said it's not clear what current enrollment numbers will be for the 2020-21 year, and how many students will opt for the fully online eAcademy. 

District staff will present the recommendations at Wednesday's school board meeting. The plan will be finalized Aug. 7 and shared with families and staff in time for the first day of school, Sept. 1.

Contact Alex Groth at agroth@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @grothalexandria.

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This article originally appeared on Oshkosh Northwestern: Oshkosh school board to consider 2020-21 reopening plans during Wednesday meeting

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