Jamie Taylor/river news
Maggie Peterson explains the district’s plans to ensure a “continuity of education” during the extended school closure mandated by the state in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
3/19/2020 7:30:00 AM School district announces plans for student meals, virtual learning Administrators want to ensure 'continuity of learning' for students
While in-person classes have been canceled for the forseeable future, School District of Rhinelander officials are devising a plan to ensure local children can continue their education while the world waits for the COVID-19 pandemic to abate.
Maggie Peterson, the district's director of learning support, outlined the plan Monday during a meeting of the district's board of education. Peterson was filling in for superintendent Kelli Jacobi, who was absent with "a non-respiratory" illness.
Peterson told the board that the administrative team has been working on contingency plans since before Gov. Tony Evers announced the closure of all state schools to limit the spread of the infectious respiratory illness.
"We have been talking about a virtual learning plan, and what that would look like, in case there was a shutdown to ensure there is still a continuation of learning taking place," Peterson said.
According to Peterson, the district's director of teaching, learning and technology Rachel Hoffman has been working on the plan over the last 10 days. She added that the district has developed a series of robocall messages to all staff, students and parents.
The first message was sent out late Monday afternoon. Peterson read it to the board.
"The School District of Rhinelander is on Spring Break March 16-20. All district schools will be closed starting March 23 in accordance with Governor Evers' executive order. The anticipated reopen date for schools is April 6, but this will be re-evaluated and updated as information becomes available. All school building activities including face-to-face school day instruction are canceled. A virtual learning plan for continued instruction will begin on Thursday, March 26. Paper-based materials will be available if families do not have a device or sufficient internet access. If your family does not have at least one device and internet access at home, please fill out the Google form which is found on our school website by clicking on the red banner on the top of the page or call 715-365-9700, ext. 5746 by Thursday, March 19," Peterson read from the message script.
She noted that this is the first in a series of messages that will get more specific as details start falling into place.
Peterson stressed that families without at least one device capable of accessing the internet should contact the district as soon as possible "and we'll get those resources to them so they'll have that continuity of learning."
"Charter is offering free and reduced cost internet to families that don't have it during the next 60 day period," Peterson said.
She said all information related to the district's efforts in dealing with the COVID-19 shutdown can be accessed by clicking on the red banner on the district's website.
Peterson also said Pat Karaba, food service director for Taher which operates the SDR cafeterias, has come up with a detailed plan on how to feed students during the shutdown. That plan has been submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for review, she noted.
"Basically the plan will be for us to follow the way that we distribute food during the summer," Peterson said. "So it would be a second summer school contract or agreement with the state, which means we don't have to distribute food for free to those who have previously qualified for free and reduced meals. We will be able to deliver that to anybody in our community 18 or under. So this means that families can come get breakfast and lunch, and we're developing a plan for that."
Peterson said students will not physically come into the buildings to get the food.
"Pat Karaba and her staff will prepare bags of food," she said. "As soon as DPI approves our plan, those will be distributed a couple times a week so that anybody who wants to take part will be able to get that during some posted hours here at the high school. This will be our distribution center. They'll pull up either in the front or the back, we haven't determined that yet."
She said food service personnel will assemble the bags and support staff will help distribute it to the people in the vehicles. There will be some record-keeping that will have to be done to report back to DPI to account for how much food was distributed, she explained.
"Just like during summer school, they (DPI) will reimburse us for those meals," Peterson said.
Families participating in the backpack program can sign up for an extra bag of food on Thursdays.
She said once the approval is in place, it will be announced to the community.
"I have no doubt that we'll be able to get food to those who need it," Peterson said.
Peterson also reported that district officials took part in a meeting Monday with city and other representatives to discuss volunteers and shared resources at the community level.
"To make sure that essential workers in the health care field, police department, sheriff's department and fire, anything that is deemed essential, have child care so that the parents can work," Peterson said.
Board member Ron Lueneburg was at the meeting in his role as Rhinelander Police Department captain.
"Basically, it was hosted by the director of the YMCA (of the Northwoods) to talk about what are the things that we're starting to see now that can become bigger potential problems," Lueneburg said. "Child care was one of them. What happens when we have our doctors and nurses and police and fire impacted by this and how does that effect our ability to provide essential services?"
"It was a real good start to a conversation about how we deal with this if it becomes long and protracted and how it is affecting our community and the surrounding area," Lueneburg added.
"We are very proud of this school district for the work our administration has done," board president Ron Counter said.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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