It’s the kind of “spring break” no one saw coming when the 2020-21 calendar came out last year.
Due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, the Oregon School District has been required to cancel all classes and activities from Monday, March 16, through at least Friday, April 3, with plans to use virtual learning to meet students’ educational needs in the meantime.
Gov. Tony Evers announced the closings of all schools in the state in a Friday, March 13, news release.
The anticipated reopening date is Monday, April 6; however, that is subject to change pending further information.
While Evers mandated that schools close as of March 18, on Sunday, March 15, Dane County made it an immediate closure.
Virtual learning will cease during Spring Break, which will still take place at its previously scheduled dates from March 23-27. Virtual learning will resume March 30 until at least April 3.
Grab and go lunches will also be available for district children 18 and under during the school closures, and the district is providing technology assistance to students in need to use the new virtual learning system.
District superintendent Brian Busler told the Observer Monday district officials are still working from the mindset that graduation will be held as planned Sunday, June 14.
“This school year is obviously going to look different than other school years,” he said. “We’ve had plenty of experience with snow days … but this is something different. We’ve never had a three week break off from school.”
And it could be longer than that, he acknowledged.
“Yesterday we were told groups no bigger than 250, (earlier) today we were at no bigger than 50 and late this afternoon we got an email, groups no bigger than 10,” Busler said. “(It’s) subject to change, virtually by the hour.”
Until then, Busler said the plan is to have the district office open “as long as we can be open,” otherwise all buildings are on a 100% shutdown.
“We’d appreciate a telephone call versus an in person visit, but we are also open to meeting with people within the guidelines established by the state and federal government,” he said.
In the meantime, district officials are working with Evers and the Department of Public Instruction on getting a waiver for the number of days and minutes of instruction public schools are required. Busler, who worked for Evers in the 1990s as business manager of the Verona Area School District while Evers was superintendent, said he’s optimistic the governor will approve the request.
“I sort of know that guy, too,” Busler quipped.
During the planned closing through April 6, food bags from Friends of Oregon School District intended for spring break have been prepared for students in need, and “Grab and go” breakfasts and lunches will be available for students.
Pick-up sites are at all five district schools: Brooklyn Elementary (11-11:45 a.m.), Netherwood/Prairie View Elementary (10-10:45 a.m.), Rome Corners (11-11:45 a.m.), Oregon Middle School (10-10:45 a.m.) and Oregon High School (10-10:45 a.m.). Meals will be distributed in a drive-thru format, and people will be handed breakfast and lunch bags without having to leave their vehicles.
Students must be present at time of pick-up to receive a meal, with both breakfast and lunch picked up at the same time.
For information, contact Sarah Tomasiewicz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 835-4036.
Virtual learning begins
The district is providing Chromebooks to students in grades 3-12 in need for virtual learning, while students in grades K-2 will receive tech-free activities to take home.
After a pause for spring break from March 23-27, virtual instruction will resume on Monday, March 30, and continue through at least Friday, April 3. During that time, special education teachers will communicate with parents regarding any accommodations and supports needed to access learning materials.
In a letter to parents, Busler said distance learning cannot replace face-to-face instruction, and parents and guardians are not expected to instantly become expert teachers.
“Our goal is to help students maintain connections with teachers and learning while school is closed,” he wrote.
The school board held a special meeting at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, March 17, to discuss plans to compensate district employees during the mandatory school closures. All buildings except the district office are closed until further notice.
Busler said the district wants to make sure employees have income security during the closure.
“How can we continue to take good care of our school staff in an unprecedented time of us not being in session?” he said.