By SARAH PARKER | County Line Editor
At present, Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton intends to hold school five days a week in-person, plus virtual options will be available, Superintendent Travis Anderson wrote in a letter to parents last week.
But Anderson noted, “With the complexity and uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic, we want everyone to understand that whatever plans we have in place can literally change overnight based on health department regulations and mandates that our district will have to follow.”
Each day, students in grades kindergarten through 12 may arrive at school at 7:45 a.m. (no earlier) and will be dismissed at an earlier-than-usual time — 2:30 p.m.
From 2:30 to 3:45 p.m., teachers will be allotted virtual teaching/learning time with students who are absent from school due to quarantining or other health-related concerns, plus they may build virtual lessons and create and upload material, etc. Moreover, the staff will have a chance to deep clean the entire building.
Masks or face shields will be required in the hallways and when an individual is within 6 feet of another person. In the classroom, mask use will be up to the teacher and will be based on students’ physical closeness.
Water fountains will be turned off, but students may fill their own water bottles, plus hand sanitizing stations will be placed in each classroom and throughout the building.
Visitor access will be restricted, buses will be cleaned daily, high-touch areas will be cleaned throughout the day, plexiglass dividers will be installed in high-traffic areas, and students will have no-touch lunch purchasing options.
Furthermore, personal protective equipment will be provided to everyone: students, staff members, bus drivers and substitute teachers.
Students in pre-kindergarten will attend school on either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday.
The district is encouraging families to provide their own transportation, as social distancing will be practiced on the buses. Students will have to wear face masks on the buses and sit with family members.
Every seventh- through 12th-grade student will be given a laptop with Windows software and access to the Google Suite tools. Also, technological devices will be available to elementary students and will be sent home with them in the event of a mandated closure.
Additionally, all staff in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade will be furnished with a Microsoft-based laptop.
Partnering with Education Solutions of Oregon, Wis., the N-O-W School District will host the Falcons Virtual Academy for students in kindergarten through fifth and Wisconsin Virtual School classes for students in sixth through 12th.
Those who choose one of those options will still be designated as N-O-W enrollees. So far, 10 families have shown interest in participating in virtual education, Anderson said.
“Students in our virtual academy will be taught by trained teachers in a virtual setting where all of the curriculum content is aligned with the Wisconsin state standards, while our in-house teachers at N-O-W will be able to focus all of their attention on the students in the face-to-face learning option,” Anderson said.
The Falcons Virtual Academy can be found under the “Elementary” tab on the district website at now.k12.wi.us.
The virtual school is not a temporary solution during the pandemic, but rather will be a part of N-O-W’s offerings for “years to come,” Anderson added.
Parents who wish to enroll their children in a virtual school should contact elementary principal Gayle Luebke (grades kindergarten through fifth) at[email protected]or counselor Holly Nemec (grades sixth through 12) at[email protected]by Friday, Aug. 14.
A meeting for virtual-option families will be Thursday, Aug. 20, in the high school gym. The time slot for those in kindergarten through fifth grade will be from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m.; and grades six through 12, 7:30 to 8:15 p.m.
The N-O-W School District conducted a survey earlier this summer, receiving 202 responses. These were the results:
• 68 percent — district should reopen even if everyone can’t be socially distanced
• 58 percent — a return to school five days a week for face-to-face instruction is an acceptable solution
• 40 percent — Parents are comfortable sending their children to school without additional safety measures in place