BELOIT — School District of Beloit Interim Superintendent Dan Keyser and the board of education discussed some scenarios whereby small groups of students may begin to get educational services within the school buildings at its Tuesday evening business meeting.
Currently, the district is only offering distance learning through Jan. 22 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are some needs we aren’t able to address at a distance, and the district is considering small groups getting targeted assistance,” Keyser said.
“It’s a great idea to get small groups of kids in because COVID is going to be around for a long time,” school board member Stephanie Jacobs said.
Keyser explained the students who would take priority would be those without access to the internet; students who are struggling; students who need ongoing academic intervention; and those experiencing social and emotional struggles. The groups of students would be 10 or less. Once the structure is up and running, it could grow to include more students.
Keyser said the district has learned a lot and has had good experiences finding innovative ways to reach out to students and families, with lots of community engagement and support. However, those at the district are also recognizing the increasing effects of students being isolated from schools and one another.
“There is a growing need for consideration and support for students both academically and social-emotionally,” Keyser said.
Keyser said 80% of administrative staff and 59.5% of classroom teachers have said under the right conditions there could be small groups of 10 or fewer students that could be supported inside the schools safely.
Keyser also noted community partners such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Stateline Family YMCA have been able to support groups of students with no closures.
He said appointments will be set ahead of time and all healthroom staff and building administration would be notified and parental transportation would be encouraged.
There would be a contactless check in and health screening. Students would be escorted to a designated room adjacent to an exit door, and would be escorted to pickup.
Keyser said parents have wanted to get students back to school, and the theme of “getting back to school is out there.”
The district, Keyser said, had some success with bringing in special education students for testing.
“We needed to do some testing and were able to find situations in which we had special education rooms adjacent to exterior doors. We brought them in, did testing and they did not interact with any staff,” Keyser said.
Jacobs said she fully supports Keyser’s idea.
Board member John Wong thanked Keyser for bringing it to the board. Wong added there needs to be mandatory safety requirements for students with no exceptions to the rules.
Wong also said he is concerned about declining enrollment and other area schools that are open, which could lead to more students going elsewhere.
“We can serve our students well. We have to think outside of the box and not be too sheltered,” Wong said. “Doing nothing and staying virtual is detrimental to the district long term.”
Board member Spencer Anderson said he wanted to ensure the cleaning procedures are done and asked if the teaching in-person would be voluntary. Anderson said there are some teachers who aren’t comfortable and their teaching could be impacted.
Keyser said teaching in-person would be voluntary.
Wong asked Keyser if he also was reviewing possible opening scenarios for extracurricular activities. Keyser said he was.
Jacobs said she has been extremely worried about 4-6-year-old children primarily, those little ones having first experiences of school online. Some of them , she said, may continue to struggle and fall behind. Jacobs said she believes there are teachers who are willing to volunteer and that she is excited about it, especially with the surrounding schools open.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the district also approved the purchase of two food trucks in the amount of $410,000 from Fund 50.
The food trucks have been approved by Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for a way of distributing meals in the National School Lunch and National Breakfast Program as well as ala carte sales. Currently, the district has an excess fund balance of over $900,000.
The trucks would be paid through Fund 50 and the cost of both trucks is estimated to be $410,000. Fund 50 is used for the district’s food and community service activities. No K-12 instructional or instructional support related functions are recorded in these funds, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) website at https://dpi.wi.gov.