Railroader Return-to-School Update, July 30, 2020

As you may have heard, Governor Evers has issued a state-wide mask order. This announcement might leave you wondering how this order could change rules or expectations for your child when they are at school in the fall. That is a great question.

Scroll down to see the 
Railroaders Return-to-School Plan 
in its entirety

We will plan to study the details of the order as well as guidance from both the Department of Public Instruction and our local public health officials. Next week, we will follow up with you all with additional information about what the expectations will be for masks in schools for the fall.

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Railroader Return-to-School Update, July 29, 2020

We hope this email finds you doing well! As we continue through our work of preparing to return to school in the fall, we will continue to follow up with families as we go. In this message, we will be checking in on two main items: the fully virtual learning option and transportation.

More Information about the 100% Virtual Learning Option 
In March, schools across the state and country found themselves scrambling to provide virtual learning for students. This was brand new for all of us. The system we put in place then was temporary, with our teachers creating virtual lessons for students to do at home.

Our 100% virtual format offered this fall is different from what our students participated in last spring. While the standards of the class will be the same as the in-person classes, the virtual format is individualized and will adjust based on the progress of each student. Lessons and demonstrations can be repeated based on student need, tests can be taken according to the pace of the student, and the overall class format is designed specifically to be individualized virtual lessons, activities and assessments. While a staff member will check in with the student bi-weekly, the virtual activities are not led by Altoona teachers. The fully virtual model is similar to what our high school uses for their existing virtual courses.  If you are considering the 100% virtual option, please reach out to your child’s principal by August 4th:

Altoona Elementary School (K-3), Tara Betlach    
tbetlach@altoona.k12.wi.us, 715-838-2160

Altoona Intermediate School (4-5), Andrea Steffen 
asteffen@altoona.k12.wi.us, 715-838-2213

Altoona Middle School (6-8), Steve Buss
sbuss@altoona.k12.wi.us, 715-838-2205

Altoona High School (9-12), Jim Reif
jreif@altoona.k12.wi.us, 715-838-4376

Transportation
School districts are working with the Eau Claire County Health Department (ECCHD) on all aspects of our planning. Currently, we are working on transportation plans. To help with this planning, we are being asked to provide ECCHD with an estimate of how many students currently plan to ride the bus to school in the fall. Would you please be willing to take 3 minutes to provide us with this information? Please do so by Monday, August 6th. 

Thank you for your partnership and support as we continue planning! We are working hard to ensure that our plans meet high health and safety standards, meet diverse and individual needs, and support student social and emotional well-being. We will continue to provide you updates as we go.
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Railroader Return-to-School Plan, July 24, 2020

From Safer-at-Home to Now 
On May 13, 2020 the Supreme Court canceled Wisconsin’s state-wide Safer-at-Home order, except for the part that closed schools, and schools remained closed state-wide until June 30th. Once June 30th came, like other entities, schools were required to follow their local county public health order. This is why early summer school programs were canceled and our buildings have been closed to the public.

Eau Claire Public Health Order
There is an order in Eau Claire County, and parts of it directly affect how we can come together in schools in the fall.  Specifically,

  1. People are to maintain 6 feet of physical distance from other people
  2. Cloth face coverings are encouraged if the physical distance of 6 feet can’t be maintained
  3. Increased standards for cleaning and disinfecting facilities, including frequently cleaning high-touch surfaces
  4. Policies to include screening for COVID-19 symptoms and protocol for COVID positive cases
  5. Regulation of entrances to prevent people from congregating
  6. Large gatherings of people in a single space are limited to 100 people (indoors) or 250 people (outdoors)


Our Priorities 

  • High levels of health and safety practices
  • Instruction that is student-centered, flexible, and responsive to needs
  • Support of social and emotional needs

Planning our Return 
As we planned for our return to school, there were things that were clear and easier to put in place, including enhanced cleaning procedures, plans for individual lunches, increased hand-washing and hand-sanitizing practices, and new training for staff. But not so easy to tackle, we knew we could not bring every student back every single day and be able to follow the requirement to keep students spaced 6 feet apart due to room size in some buildings. We knew we would have to make hard decisions.

We didn’t do a survey at that point in time because we knew we had few options. Instead of sending out a survey to meet the needs of some, we worked on how we could move our resources around to meet as many needs as possible.

As part of our planning, we looked at the size of our classrooms and ways to move furniture to keep students 6 feet apart. We realized that only some of our rooms are large enough to do this. For this reason, we will be able to bring some grade levels back for in-person instruction more than others. Our youngest learners, who are less independent than our older learners, will be in-person more than our older learners.

Our Railroader Return-to-School Plan
Our plan includes a full-virtual option for those who prefer it and (with the exception of 4K) and hybrid learning for everyone else. This maximizes our resources to get as many students back to our school buildings as possible; provides high levels of health and safety practices; and instruction that is student-centered, flexible, and responsive to students' social and emotional needs.

A Full-Virtual Option
While we are excited to have students back in our schools, we understand that there are reasons individual students or families might prefer a fully virtual option in the fall. We will have a 100% virtual option for families who prefer this. Please contact your child’s principal by August 4th if you would like your child to have a 100% virtual education in the fall.   

Altoona Elementary School (K-3), Tara Betlach    
tbetlach@altoona.k12.wi.us, 715-838-2160

Altoona Intermediate School (4-5), Andrea Steffen 
asteffen@altoona.k12.wi.us, 715-838-2213

Altoona Middle School (6-8), Steve Buss
sbuss@altoona.k12.wi.us, 715-838-2205

Altoona High School (9-12), Jim Reif
jreif@altoona.k12.wi.us, 715-838-4376

Hybrid Learning for All 
It is not currently possible to have all Altoona students in school every day. If all students came back for full days every day, we would not be able to follow the requirements in the Eau Claire County Order. However, we have maximized resources to get as many students back to school as possible. Below is the schedule for each school. Across the district, our buildings will be closed to students on Wednesdays to provide for deep cleaning.

Altoona Elementary School 4K Program 
We are adding an additional 4-year-old kindergarten teacher in order to make our class sizes smaller and enable us to spread out into our spaces. This will not affect programming. Our 4K students will have the same type of programming at our new 4K Center that they had in the past. The only schedule change is that their day off will be on Wednesdays this year, not Fridays. 4K students will attend either mornings or afternoons Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Our 4K Center will be closed on Wednesdays for deep cleaning.
Start Date:  September 14th

Altoona Elementary School (K-3) Hybrid 
Classroom tables will be exchanged for individual desks so that students can be spaced out in our large elementary classrooms. Students in Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade will attend Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday in-person. On Wednesdays, all K-3 students will participate in at-home learning so that the school can have deep cleaning. Age and readiness will determine if student learning activities will be virtual or paper. 
Start Date:  September 1st

Altoona Intermediate School (4-5) Hybrid 
One additional section of 4th grade and one additional section of 5th grade will be added in order to make class sizes smaller. This will allow students to be spread out more and meet the requirement of having students 6 feet apart. Students in 4th and 5th grade will attend Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday in-person. On Wednesdays, all 4-5 students will participate in at-home virtual learning so that classrooms can have deep cleaning. 
Start Date:  September 1st

Altoona Middle School (6-8) Hybrid 
Because of classroom sizes and grade populations, students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade will be split between in-class learning and virtual learning.  Students will be divided into two groups. Group A (last names starting with A-L) will attend in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays and do virtual learning on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Group B (last names starting with M-Z) will participate in virtual learning on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and have in-person learning on Thursdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays, all 6-8 students will participate in at-home virtual learning so that classrooms can have deep cleaning. Our intention is to have households scheduled in the same group, including if they have a sibling at the high school. If you have a unique situation where you need a group change, please contact Mr. Buss. 
Start Date:  Group A (A-L) will start on Tuesday September 1st; Group B (M-Z) will start on Thursday September 3rd.

Altoona High School (9-12) Hybrid 
Because of classroom sizes and grade populations, students in 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade will be split between in-class learning and virtual learning.  Students will be divided into two groups. Group A (last names starting with A-L) will attend in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays and do virtual learning on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Group B (last names starting with M-Z) will participate in virtual learning on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and have in-person learning on Thursdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays, all 6-8 students will participate in at-home virtual learning so that classrooms can have deep cleaning. Our intention is to have households scheduled in the same group, including if they have a sibling at the high school. If you have a unique situation where you need a group change, please contact Mr. Buss. 
Start Date:  Group A (A-L) will start on Tuesday September 1st; Group B (M-Z) will start on Thursday September 3rd.

Masks (or other Cloth Face Covering) 
Students are not required to wear masks for the full day unless local orders change to require them.
Students will be instructed to wear masks when they are not able to keep 6 feet of distance from others. Times when students will be instructed to wear masks include

  • When arriving at school and entering in the door
  • When passing through the halls with other groups of students
  • When an activity in the classroom involves students moving around and into each other’s space

Guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services tells us that masks should not be mandatory for students.  If an individual student or a family has a reason why a student can’t or shouldn’t wear a mask, the student will not be forced to do so. We will provide each student with a cloth mask and will give families information on how to wear and clean a cloth mask. We will follow the recommendation of instructing students to wear masks when they are not able to keep 6 feet of distance with others. We encourage parents to help their child(ren) practice wearing a mask if this will be new for them. Any student who wishes to wear a mask the full day is welcome to do so.

Transportation 
School buses typically carry more students than can be seated 6 feet apart. If your schedule allows and you are willing to volunteer to transport your own child to and from school, we would greatly appreciate the help reducing the number of riders on the buses so that they can be spread out further.  We ask that students riding the bus wear a mask.

Ongoing Review 
This plan has been made based on what we know about COVID-19 and our Eau Claire County Public Health Order at this point in time.  As the health of our community evolves, we will continue to review our plan on a frequent basis. As adjustments need to be made, we will communicate with our families as quickly as we are able.

More Communication is Coming 
This is a lot of information and more details will continue to be sent out. For now, we wanted to get you the information you need to begin planning for your child for fall.

Our website will be kept up to date with current information: https://www.altoona.k12.wi.us/rails-return

Thank You! 
We find our community in a challenging situation, which finds our schools and students in a challenging situation. While we know the start of our school year is far from ideal, we are using great care to make the most of the resources we have so that we can provide as much as we can to our students. Thank you for your partnership and support as we take on these challenges together.

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See also our Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage.