Board approves full-time return to classes

Most parents favor five-day-a-week schedule but are divided about whether students should be made to wear masks
Ozaukee Press Staff

Grafton students will be returning to the classroom full time in September.

The Grafton School Board on Monday approved its district reopening plan, which calls for five days of in-person instruction.

After a nearly four-hour discussion in the high school auditorium, the board approved the plan, 6-1. School Board member John Scolman cast the dissenting vote.

“I voted opposed because I am in disagreement with the fundamental reasoning behind the plan,” he wrote in an email to Ozaukee Press. “I’m not in favor of wearing masks less than 100% of the time for obvious reasons and I’m also not in favor of offering virtual learning because students already have access to online learning opportunities.”

The bulk of the discussion centered around the use of face masks by students and teachers in the schools. Board members voted to change the wording in the plan from “students will wear face coverings” to “students must wear face coverings” but gave staff members discretion as to when to require masks.

According to the plan, all students are required to wear masks while walking through common areas, but they are allowed to remove the masks in the classroom if they are sitting six feet apart and working by themselves. 

“If you are in a classroom and you are unable to be six feet apart because of the desks or whatever it may be, you will need to wear a mask,” Supt. Jeff Nelson said.

One mother said during public comment that her child has autism and has a difficult time wearing a mask. She told the board she is worried that her child will be punished for taking off a mask.

Nelson said the district is waiting for guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on whether special needs students should be required to wear masks. 

“We’re not sure what the recommendation from DPI will be. We’re wondering if it could be an IEP (Individualized Education Program) team decision or do you need a doctor’s note,” he said.

Students will be required to walk in a specific pattern through buildings to ensure social distancing is maintained between classes. 

Lunch and recess at the elementary schools and John Long Middle School has been split between the younger and older grade levels to allow for social distancing. Each week, grade levels will alternate eating in the cafeteria or the classroom. 

At the high school, a third lunch period was added to the schedule in order to have fewer students in the cafeteria.  

While the plan calls for learning to occur at school, students or family members who have health issues may choose a remote learning option, Nelson said. 

Families with students attending classes online will need to come to school to exchange materials on a weekly basis to ensure learning materials are available to all students. The district will provide technology support to ensure access to all students.

Students who are bused to school will be required to sit with their siblings or by themselves in a row. Director of Business Services Topher Adams said he is working with GO Riteway to determine the logistics.

“I don’t envision Riteway adding two to three times (the number of buses) to its fleet,” he said.

According to a survey of 958 parents in June, 58% prefer having complete in-person learning, 36% wanted a hybrid model of in-person and online learning and 6% wanted online learning. 

At the June School Board meeting, the board agreed to have five days of in-person instruction.

Last month, DPI provided four recommendations for how districts could reopen, none of which included five days of in-person learning.

DPI’s scenarios range from a four-day in-person school week to scheduling groups of students in school on different days or weeks with schools closed one day for cleaning while students learn from home. DPI also said school districts should be prepared to shift between in-person, physically-distanced and online learning. 

“These are guidelines; these are not rules. Local control makes the decision,” Nelson said, noting the district has been in communication with the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department, its legal counsel and neighboring districts.

“Our goal is to have learning be as safe as possible and we want to ensure our students are getting the quality education that they deserve,” Nelson 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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