By this time next week the students and staff will be navigating their way through the start of a new normal. With precautions in place the school district of Amery trying hard to keep the learning environment safer and keep the doors open for in-person learning.
During August’s regular meeting of the Amery School Board, it was shared that 164 students have chosen the virtual learning option over in-person learning, which according to District Administrator Shawn Doerfler is a little over 10% of students. “This is similar to what other area schools have reported,” said Doerfler. The families that have made this decision are obligated to stay with it for the full first semester. The building breakdown of number of students choosing virtual is 39 from Lien Elementary, 25 from Amery Intermediate, 48 from Amery Middle and 38 from Amery High School.
The question for many has been once students are back in school, how will matters be handled if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs. The school board approved a chart modeled closely after a chart being used by Hudson School District, which breaks down positive COVID-19 cases by Polk County numbers and positive cases for Amery students and staff.
If positive cases of Amery students and staff reached 15-30 people or if Polk County cases reached 11-50 within the previous 14-day period, a hybrid of in-person a virtual learning would be started. For virtual learning, students will be divided into A/B cohorts where Cohort A would do face to face learning Mondays and Tuesdays, remote learning Thursdays and Fridays. Cohort B would do the opposite. Wednesdays would be reserved for deep cleaning, family outreach and staff prep.
If positive cases of Amery students and staff reached more than 30 people in the previous 14 days, total remote learning would be implemented.
These determination dates will be held every two weeks on Wednesdays with implementation the following Monday.
Board member Erin Hosking questioned whether all buildings need to be closed if an outbreak happens in just one school on the campus. “There are two Schools of Thought on that. The first is that you simply have one school with a high rate of positive-you close just that building, but the trick is we have shared staff that travel between buildings and further we have bus transportation that has all four buildings on it. If we are trying to cut down community spread, we would close all four buildings,” said Doerfler.
He said, “If you want to use the other school of thought, you would close just one building and roll the dice that it hasn’t spread outside that building but I am not so sure we want to roll the dice on that.”
Doerfler said the district is working closely with the Polk County Health Department and the Amery Hospital and Clinic. He said there would be a more lax approach to attendance this year.
He said, “We feel confident, we have worked hard and we think we have a good plan in place. Are we confident everyone is 100% safe? I don’t think we will ever be that.”