By Keith Skenandore
When Governor Tony Evers extended the state’s “State-at-Home” order until May 26, his announcement slammed the doors shut for all public and private K-12 schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
Teachers and administrative staff held out hope that they could possibly end the virtual learning phase of instrution and return to their classrooms and stand in front of their students.
Although the odds of hearing the morning school bells ringing throughout the hallways of the Seymour Community School District were slim to none, Gov. Evers announcement still brought major disappointment.
Laurie Asher, superintendent of SCSD, said everyone employed at there schools understands the importance of assuring the safety of their students and their families, but their is still disappointment.
“We would have loved to see them (the students) come back,” said Asher. “The relationship that our teachers and kids have is so important.”
She said their school district pretty much knew the extension by the governor was coming so they have already been focusing on phase two of the school’s plan.
“Now is the excitement of what can we continue to do that we’ve been doing really well to keep supporting our students working and continuing to make that stronger,” Asher said.
Phase one of the district’s initial virtual learning was followed which led up the school’s Easter break.
Now with Easter break over and the executive order extended, phase two is up and running.
Asher said phase two was ready to be adhered to for the last two weeks of Ever’s initial executive order which began on March 25 and was to end this Friday, April 24.
“In our planning,” said Asher, “Phase two was really planned to be long term if it needed to be.”
What that phase included was providing access to technologies for most of the school’s families. They provided Wi-Fi and hot spots for families that didn’t have access at home or connected them with a provider.
“We moved into that the last two weeks,” Asher said.
She now said the next thing to hone in on is clarification on how grading is going to be handled.
“What is that going to look like for the fourth quarter,” Asher said. “We had set some things in place but we didn’t finalize it until we knew if it was going to be just two weeks of if the grading was going to have to be for the rest of the school year.
“That’s really the next piece that we are going to work on in the next couple of days and get that out to our families so they understand how their students will be graded.”
All this planning done by the entire school district is done through video conferencing as they also have to adhere to the order with the closing of the school’s doors.
A Google program is used for the teachers to meet and for the principals to meet with the teachers.
“Every day of the week we are talking through this,” Asher said. “The administrators all meet virtally.
“That’s our new kind of platform to collaborate now instead of face-to-face.”
The last day of school was scheduled for June 5 and Asher said the district’s plan is to continue to follow the school calendar.
“We are expected to and plan to provide through June 5 which would be our last instructional day,” she said.
That disappointment that has hit the senior class not being able to hang out with their friends and classmates their final school year, now leaves the question if they will be able to walk up on stage and receive their diploma.
With the extended order to end at 8 a.m. the day after Memorial Day, graduation for those seniors that have completed the requirements for what has to be the most challenging senior year in Seymour School history, was to take place on May 31.
“Our goal is to have a full graduation with everyone being able to come in,” Asher said. “We’re talking about that but I don’t anticipate that being able to happen at the normal time.
“I really anticipate that with everything slowly opening back up we are probably shooting for more of an August graduation celebration.”
She definitely wants the students to receive their diploma before they all head off to college or go into the workforce.
Looking forward, Asher said there is also work being done for the upcoming Summer School. If face-to-face instruction is not an option, then she said they are looking at opportunities to provide virtual learning options as part of the summer school experience.
Asher is proud of what their school district has been able to accomplish. The prepping of meals for the students who are in need and the teachers with their virtual learning, all done in a short period of time.
“This could not have been done without everybody being all in,” said Asher. “Everybody within our staff really has been just to this point, asking, ‘What can I do? What do you need me to do? How do you need me to do it?
“Our teachers have been putting in more hours now than when they were face-to-face just in helping with the transition and being available to all kids.”
Food service workers have been coming in and preparing over 900 meals a day.
“I just think that everybody has really stepped up to say, ‘We want to support our families and our students any way we can.’” said Asher. “That is what I’m the most proud of. Just that willingness to do whatever it takes and to be there even though they can’t see there kids face-to-face.
“I am proud of how quickly we were able to continue with education and not have a disruption in that.”
Editor’s Note: Attempts were made for comment from the School District of Shiocton, however, messages and emails were not responded to. With the schools closed due to COVID-19, it is understandable that communication may be difficult at this time. We hope to receive comment in the future and will publish their response in a future publication.