Most Altoona students will return to in-person classes for either two or four days per week starting in September, according to the Altoona School District’s reopening plan, which it released Friday.
The district will also offer an all-online option for any K-12 student who wants to learn from home. Parents must contact their child’s principal by Aug. 4 if they wish to participate in the all-virtual option this fall.
The district said in a news release Friday: “It is not currently possible to have all Altoona students in school every day. If all students came back for full days every day, we would not be able to follow the requirements in the Eau Claire County Order. However, we have maximized resources to get as many students back to school as possible.”
Under the plan, kindergarten through 5th grade students will attend in-person classes on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. One extra section each of 4th and 5th grade will be added to keep class sizes small enough to allow for social distancing. Kindergarten through 5th grade students will start school Sept. 1.
Sixth through 12th grade students will attend in-person classes two days per week due to classroom sizes and enrollment numbers. Those students in Group A (last names beginning with letters A through L) will attend in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays and participate in virtual learning the other three days. Group B (last names beginning with letters M through Z) will attend in-person classes on Thursdays and Fridays, and participate in virtual learning Mondays through Wednesdays.
Group A will begin school Sept. 1; Group B will begin Sept. 3.
Similar to the plan the Eau Claire school board voted on this week, the Altoona school district will close all its buildings to students on Wednesdays for deep cleaning.
The district’s 4-year-old kindergarten program schedule will mostly stay the same as last year, but its day off will be Wednesdays instead of Fridays for the 2020-21 school year. Students will attend the program either mornings or afternoons on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with the 4K Center closing on Wednesdays for cleaning. The program is also adding another 4K teacher to make class sizes smaller, according to the plan.
The district’s 4K program will begin Sept. 14.
Students will only be required to wear masks when they’re within six feet of others; when arriving at school and entering in the door; when passing through halls with other groups of students and when a classroom activity requires it.
The district says it will also ask students to wear a mask if they’re riding the bus.
“If your schedule allows and you are willing to volunteer to transport your own child to and from school, we would greatly appreciate the help reducing the number of riders on the buses so that they can be spread out further,” the district said in the plan.
Citing Wisconsin Department of Health Services guidance that recommends masks not be made mandatory for students, the plan states: “Students are not required to wear masks for the full day unless local orders change to require them.”
The district will give each student a cloth mask, and will not force a student to wear a mask “if an individual student or family has a reason why a student can’t or shouldn’t wear a mask.”
Altoona schools superintendent Heidi Eliopoulos said in a statement: “The Railroader Return-to-School Plan was collaboratively developed to both follow health official guidance and maximize resources to bring students back to school safely. We know that each family in our community has varying personal needs. We hope the options we have created support our students, families, and staff as we resume learning in the fall.”
The district said it may change its reopening plan based on how COVID-19 spread evolves in the community and based on the Eau Claire City-County Health Department’s public health order.