The Ladysmith School Board will present a plan for how instruction will resume this fall, including options for on-line and in-person learning as well as when and where masks will be required as the coronavirus pandemic continues, at an upcoming special meeting.

But Ladysmith school parents might be seeing a preview of what instruction might look like this fall in the district’s summer school program now underway. 

The public is invited to attend the board’s special meeting at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 5, at Ladysmith Middle & High School library.

The board established a new COVID Task Force to draft recommendations, and 29 individuals attended the first two hour planning session. It meets every Monday, from 1-3 p.m.

“We are working on how we are going to come back to school safely and try and get the community onboard with our plan and our decisions,” School District Administrator Laura Stunkel said. On that date (Aug. 5) we hopefully have a plan that we can all get behind and approved by the board.”

Stunkel told the board she will seek approval of the plan from the Rusk County Public Health Department prior to the Aug. 5 meeting.

“We have been working with public health all along. We are working with the superintendents of Flambeau and Bruce as well. We are really trying to have a more unified approach,” Stunkel said.

She added organizing a more unified approach for the upcoming fall might address competition that caused problems for all three school districts after schools closed last spring due to the pandemic.

Ladysmith school officials are planning for a variety of instructional models. They are looking at every phase of school operations including transportation, mental health and professional development.

“We will be ready for face-to-face, we will be ready for virtual learning and we will be ready for a hybrid of both,” Stunkel said. “The goal is getting back into the classroom and managing the risks.”

Summer school already is underway with numerous measures aimed at managing risks. There are 130 students attending in the building and some taking virtual instruction.

Parents are encouraged to take their child’s temperature before school. Student temperatures are taken again before entering school, and individuals reading above 100 degrees are not allowed in. Parents are required to wait until their child enters the building.

“Any students with any COVID symptoms are not allowed in,” Elementary Principal Nathan Steinmetz said. “We are checking all students as they come into the building.”

Parents and guardians also are not allowed into the building, helping reduce congestion at the entrance especially with the extra time for taking temperatures.

Upon entering the building students are required to either wash their hands or use hand sanitizer.

Masks are “highly encouraged” for summer school.

Staff members must wear masks when in the hallways or moving about the building.

“When they are in their classroom teaching they are not required to wear them because of the fact we want the students to see their mouths moving. Also it is easier to hear,and for anyone with a hearing impairment it is easier for them to hear what is being said,” Steinmetz said.

Water fountains are blocked off except for the bottle fill stations. Students may bring water bottles.

Teachers are required to take regular attendance and have seating charts. Classes also have been limited due to 6-foot social distancing measures so class sizes are down.

“We are being very diligent on that because if anyone does come down with [the coronavirus] we need to be able to contact trace with who they have been in contact with,” Steinmetz said.

No transportation is being offered. Surfaces are being cleaned regularly, especially after students leave for lunch or to go home for the day.

The current summer school plan has been approved by the county health department, according to Steinmetz.

“So far everything has been going really well,” Steinmetz said. “It seems like everything is going very well.”

The summer school model could be a preview of what parents can expect for instruction this fall.

School Board President Todd Novakofski called it “a good starting trial.”

The board voted 6-0,last Wednesday, to approve the district’s Summer School Plan, although summer school was already underway.

While some schools around the state already have announced plans for all virtual instruction, alternating days, mask wearing, social distancing and other coronavirus preventative measures for this fall, Ladysmith school officials are still in the planning stages of plan development.

“Right now we are not announcing any of that. That is all part of our COVID Task Force,” Steinmetz said.

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