All Waterloo School District students will follow their peers at Waterloo High School in returning to remote learning, Superintendent Brian Charron announced at Monday’s school board meeting.
“Out of concern for the rise in (COVID) cases locally and the amount of people we feel will be visiting with family, and understandably, the week after Thanksgiving, all students will be remote,” Charron said.
Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner has encouraged the return to remote learning after initially advocating for in-person learning at the start of the school year.
Since then, Wagner noted Monroe County is seeing about six times as many new cases a day, large numbers of employees and students have had to quarantine and spread of the virus on school buses has become a concern.
“There’s not just one thing,” Wagner said of why he changed his recommendation. “It’s just the overall picture right now doesn’t look like it’s going to be sustainable to keep them in-person.”
“A planned fully remote is much better for parents than ‘hey, we’re going to remote tomorrow,” Wagner added. “The schools are at their limit, we’re at our limit and I don’t see it changing in the near future.”
Charron sent an email to parents Saturday informing them WHS would return to remote learning Monday.
Charron announced the change to WHS a week after he first notified parents it could happen due to how many teachers have had to quarantine because they have contracted the novel coronavirus or been in close contact with someone who has.
At the school board meeting, he said there were 25 employees and almost 200 students absent on Monday because they were on quarantine.
That reality, combined with unprecedented spread of the virus in the region, county and community, made the district decide to return to remote learning.
Waterloo Junior High School students will do so beginning this coming Monday, while elementary school students will resume remote learning after the Thanksgiving break.
“This is driven by our desire to have kids in our school as much as possible when we can keep them safe and when we can keep our community safe,” Charron said. “The rise in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths recently has become a significant concern for us.”
The earliest students will return to any in-person learning will be Dec. 7, but Charron stressed that is not a guarantee.
“This will be dependent on what’s happening in the metro area with hospitalizations, and what’s happening in our county and in our community,” he said. “So I would ask that everybody do your part to help limit the spread of this virus. It is impacting our ability to staff our buildings tremendously.”
After Thanksgiving, Charron said he will speak with Wagner and communicate with parents about the plans going forward.
“Everyone should be prepared for the reality that we may not return,” he said. “We are hopeful, but at the same time we want to be realistic.”
For however long the district uses remote learning, Charron said it may consider new approaches like synchronous learning and having some students like those in special education attend in-person at times.
That former proposition will most likely not work, though, because of internet bandwidth issues within the district and among its student body, per Charron.
As Waterloo makes this switch back to remote learning, the Columbia School District will be considering doing so as well at its school board meeting tonight (Wednesday).
The district, which recently sent a letter to parents telling them to prepare for a return to remote learning, has dealt with similar staff issues because of quarantines.
Columbia Superintendent Chris Grode said 14 employees were absent Tuesday because they were on quarantine. The district also had only one kitchen in operation because of those staff members being out.
Waterloo OKs tax levy
The Waterloo Board of Education also approved that district’s tax levy for next year.
It unanimously OK’d the levy that Charron proposed at the previous meeting calling for a 4.98 percent increase, the lowest in over a decade.