CHIPPEWA FALLS — The six elementary schools in the Chippewa Falls school district reopened last week for in-person learning for the first time since the end of October. Chippewa Falls High School and Middle School are now slated to follow, and be back in the classroom before the end of the month.
District Superintendent Jeff Holmes announced that all grades will be back in the classroom on Monday, Jan. 25. Like the model being used in the elementary schools, classes will be held Monday-Thursday with an “asynchronous Friday model” where students will be at home with virtual, remote learning.
The district shut down in-person learning at the end of October with an initial goal of reopening Nov. 30. However, because the COVID-19 cases remained high in the county, the reopening plan was pushed into January.
“Since December 18, the county’s COVID-19 risk level has moved from critically high to very high and, as of the writing of this communication, to high,” Holmes said in a letter to parents that announced the school’s reopening plan. “Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this trend will continue.”
The ability of the public to keep the new cases to a minimum will have a direct impact on the school’s ability to open on that date, and to remain open for the rest of the school year, he added.
“While I remain optimistic that we should be able to return to an in-person setting on the original starting date for the second semester and also remaining cognizant of the conditions in other areas of the U.S. that could potentially reach us, we need to remind everyone that our conditions could be negatively impacted in the days, weeks, and months ahead,” Holmes said. “My point is that this public health emergency remains fluid and subject to change on nearly a daily basis. We need for the Chippewa Falls area to remain diligent in helping us keep the doors open to in-person settings by utilizing mitigation measures that are appropriate in the community. We assure you that we will continue to be diligent with our mitigation measures in the school settings; however, as with many things, what occurs outside of our settings has a direct impact on what occurs within our school settings.”
Vaccine rollout has started in the county, and that should help prevent another surge as people receive their immunizations, he added.
“One bit of good news to also share with you is that all school staff members are in the ‘1b tier’ for vaccinations against COVID-19,” Holmes said. “If the timeline with (Chippewa County Department of Public Health” is not significantly altered, school personnel should be able to receive those immunizations within the first two weeks of February. Those would be in the form of the Moderna vaccine and require two injections 28 days apart, with full potency reached two weeks after the second injection.”
Holmes said he appreciates the efforts of the district’s nurses and the public health officials in providing the measures that allow for the school system to move toward normal operations.
“Again, I wish the Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District and others need not endure what is currently going on in the world around us,” he said. “Your continued support, patience, understanding, and collaboration are always appreciated.”
Chippewa County Public Health Director Angela Weideman said that virtually all of the elementary schools in the county have resumed in-person learning. While Weideman is optimistic about the drop in new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, she urged the public to remain vigilant in social distancing and wearing masks.