High School Assistant Principal Craig Haese operates the cash register for Margo Mancoske last week at lunch time due to a shortage of food service workers because of issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.
By Brian Roebke
Three words — flexibility, resiliency and relationships — were used by Superintendent Carla Bubolz to describe the start of the 2020-21 school year in the Wrightstown Community School District.
“Students are doing great,” she said. “We underestimated how amazing they were going to be with the mitigation strategies.”
There were no issues with masks or hand sanitizing but physical distancing is something students needed to be reminded of by staff, who are doing a good job with that as well as teaching.
However, they continue to send reminders of the five Ws — when you’re not feeling well, stay home; wash your hands often; watch your distance, keep six feet apart; wear a face covering in public; and when you have to go out, stay out of large group gatherings — to students because there were positive cases of coronavirus, most of them asymptomatic or minor symptoms.
“Nearly all of our cases can be traced back to the community or family group gatherings,” Buboltz noted. “We’re really trying to help our families understand that’s how it spreads.
Editor’s note: Freedom High School students are moving to all-virtual education for two weeks starting Sept. 28 because of a high case load of positive COVID-19 tests in that community.
Buboltz thanked parents for being upfront and cooperative when they’re aware of student exposure to COVID-19.
When there are issues, the district is being extremely cautious and not identifying students, grades or buildings.
There is one classroom in the district on quarantine, being taught by their regular teacher, at the time of last week’s meeting.
“We felt like there were too many opportunities for close contact tracing,” Buboltz said. “The families were incredible and thankful and appreciated we were taking this seriously.”
Buboltz thinks the reason things are going so well is the mitigation strategies the district has done and all of their cases were minor. She believes masking was a big part of that and the board members gave head nods when she asked if the district should extend the masking requirement past the Sept. 28 expiration of Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide order.
Buboltz asks the community to “please, please, please, please, please” avoid large group gatherings.
Enrollment in the district will be down about 30 students this year. School districts work with three enrollment numbers every year but the count on the third Friday (Sept. 18) is the most important because that’s the number submitted to the Department of Public Instruction and used for funding purposes.
As of Sept. 16, the elementary school was down from 536 last year to 521 this year, the middle school was down from 368 to 359, and the high school was down 454 to 447.
Total district enrollment will be around 1,325.
A major reason for the reduction in enrollment was that 122 seniors graduated in spring, but only 69 4-K students replaced them this fall. Elementary School Principal Sarah Nelson believes the COVID-19 virus is a factor, with some parents deciding to keep their children in child care or at home this fall since 4K is not a mandatory program. “They just didn’t want that added stress,” she said, noting some of them may attend in the second semester if the pandemic situation improves.
The physical count includes all students sitting in seats, or sitting behind computer screens at home, but numbers are adjusted for 4K students because they are attending part time.
Buboltz told school board members there are 57 elementary, 37 middle school and 33 high school students attending school virtually.
Teachers reach out to them weekly and a new staff member, Katie Haese, is monitoring their attendance and progress.
Financial Officer Dan Storch presented preliminary budget information.
See another story for that information.
Storch told the board he was extremely impressed with the administrative team after he had the opportunity to work in the food service department due to a shortage of workers in that area.
“Through my career I’ve worked with my share of district administrators and other administrators and I don’t know if I can count on one hand outside of the people in this room that would step up and jump in feet first without any clue what they’re doing but to make it happen,” he said.
Buboltz noted all of the administrative contracts include the phrase, “all other duties as assigned,” something that’s sometimes joked about but they never thought it would involve working in the kitchen.
“We sliced watermelons at 5 a.m.,” she said.
She now knows how to make chicken wraps, run the dishwasher, and was given a sharp knife to use the second day.
WHS Principal Scott Thompson also helped out in the wellness center.
Other meeting tidbits:
• Architects met with individuals and small groups at the elementary and middle school who are impacted by the building project so they could further plan those spaces. Clint Selle told Nelson that every teacher was amazing to work with, the first school he’s ever been in where every teacher was amazing to work with. “He said in his track record, there’s always been one or two teachers who have just dug in their heels and refused to be able to negotiate some sort of what in their classroom.”
• Thompson said a positive of this situation is teachers are learning how to use technology to assist students in the future who are out of school for different reasons than COVID-19.
• Nelson said her staff had a lot of anxiety coming into the school year but they’ve been incredibly flexible and are rolling with the changes and could not be more impressed with the students for their cooperation. Students have gotten into school faster than they ever had.
• Nelson said paraprofessionals have been pulled in many different directions and are going with the flow.
• The elementary school was short more than 100 chromebooks before school started but Kris Baeten and Brad Bichler pulled them together so all students in grades 1-4 have their own chromebooks.
• Bob Calewaerts said middle school staff and students are doing well with flexibility. “Staff has stepped up and met all those challenges,” he said. “It’s been pretty impressive.”
• Modified spectator guidelines for athletic events have not been popular but Buboltz said it’s essential in order to keep the kids in school. The conference will re-evaluate the guidelines each week.
• The middle school fall sports season has been moved to spring due to the level of community spread and a lack of opponents to play, since many other schools have postponed these sports. “We don’t want middle school sports to be the driving factor for why we couldn’t have school,” Buboltz said.
• Buboltz lauded coaches and athletes for abiding by the new rules without complaining.
• The maintenance department received some electrostatic guns that spray disinfectant, with more on the way. Rooms are being sprayed every other day.
• Mike Van Eperen has been submitted as a candidate for the board of control for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
Connor Massie, grade 8 science
Tammy Schuh, middle school RTI
Lisa Lanphear, high school special education aide
Carrie Hooyman, high school special education aide
Katie Haese, online instructional aids
Alex Van Dyck, wellness center supervisor
Mary Jane Klister, middle school RTI