Small district ready with model virtual system

Random Lake used online program during snow storm last year, so when Covid-19 closed schools this week all it had to do was ‘flip the switch’

RANDOM LAKE SCHOOL Supt. Mike Trimberger is pictured in front of a screen showing the room in which he is sitting in Wednesday morning. It’s the view that 120 district teachers had during a morning staff “huddle” being held through a Google Meets program the district is utilizing during the coronavirus pandemic and which will allow students to attend classes remotely from home. Sitting next to Trimberger as seen on the screen is Joe Sheehan, executive director of the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Like every other school district in the area, the halls of Random Lake School District campus are empty of students.

But those students are still attending classes through a virtual learning system that officials say could serve as a model for the rest of the state.

“By the end of the day we will have 100% access” to the system, Supt. Mike Trimberger told 120 teachers during an early morning staff “virtual huddle” on Wednesday.

It’s a system the district used last year during a snow emergency when students were unable to get to school.

So when it was announced that schools would close in reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, the RLSD was ready.

“We’re ready to flip the switch,” Trimberger said Friday. “We’re sending everyone home tonight with all their class materials and iPads or laptops. We’re prepping up to go virtual” starting this week, he said.

The district is one of the few in Wisconsin already equipped to do so, while many other districts are having to ramp up similar systems on the fly. 

Trimberger put his district’s system on display Wednesday morning for media and local officials.

As they did Wednesday, the entire school staff will meet remotely and then each “building” — elementary, middle and high school staffs — will meet together at least once daily using Google Meets, an online web conferencing program. Then teachers will use the same program to meet with their classes.

“We will have daily communication with our kids,” Trimberger said.

For households where reliable Wi-Fi is a challenge, the district has partnered with Bertram Wireless to provide them with service.

“We have about 15 students with some connectivity issues but we expect those to be ironed out” by end of the day Wednesday, he said.

School kitchen staff will continue preparing breakfasts and lunches and deliver the meals to student households or parents can pick them up at school, Trimberger said.

He told teachers that while the state Department of Public Instruction has waived  required hours of instruction requirements for districts that qualify for exemptions, it’s important to take attendance and make sure students are engaged and doing the work.

“Make sure your students are logged in,” he said.

He said the district is prepared to contact students and parents, including making home visits, to check on students.

He also reminded teachers that building and maintaining relationships with students and staff is a priority.

Sheboygan Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Joe Sheehan, a former superintendent of the Sheboygan Unified School District, who was on hand Wednesday, said the Random Lake staff “turned a challenge into an opportunity” that could have long-lasting effects in education and for the business community.

Trimberger said students will likely remain at home past the middle of April.

“I can almost guarantee you that we will not be back by the end of April,” he told the teachers, noting that the state of Kansas had already canceled classes for the rest of the school year.

“When we look back in 20 years, we’ll see how education has shifted” toward online learning, he said.

“So do everything you can. Kick butt, Have fun,” he said.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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