By Dave Fidlin

With plans of reopening schools to all students in mid-January, officials in the Whitewater Unified district are in the process of determining who will have seats in classrooms and who will continue learning virtually.

As the number of COVID-19 cases ticked upward in Whitewater and surrounding areas this fall, the School Board in November decided to revert back to virtual instruction for the duration of the first semester as a precautionary measure, based on guidance from area health departments.

The availability of in-person instruction is set to begin Jan. 18, coinciding with the start of second semester.

District Administrator Caroline Pate-Hefty shared how she and other WUSD officials have been planning, logistically, during her routine monthly report at a School Board meeting Dec. 21. One of the efforts entailed issuing a survey to parents.

“We did some interest-seeking to see where our families were,” Pate-Hefty said. “We asked parents to rank their choices in the different models.”

Parent responses varied by grade level, Pate-Hefty revealed in her report to the School Board.

For example, 77.4 percent of parents of elementary-aged students favored full in-person, face-to-face instruction, while the numbers were slightly lower in upper grades — 75.3 percent in the middle school and 68.5 percent at the high school.

As she illustrated planning at the high school, Pate-Hefty shared why she and other administrators have been working to understand parents’ and students’ wishes for the second half of the unorthodox 2020-21 school year.

“It really requires us to plan,” Pate-Hefty said. “We needed them to choose a model. We’re going to be setting up classrooms for the 68 percent that say, ‘We really want to go with face-to-face.’”

But as with so many aspects of the pandemic, Pate-Hefty said parents and students will not be locked into a plan, and adjustments can be made as warranted.

“In reality, what we know, is there is going to have to be some flexibility, based on health reasons and based on quarantine,” she said.

However, she added, “What we’re not saying is you can pick your model from day to day, just based on preference. That would be very difficult for us to manage and make sure that we’re socially distanced.”

In other recent business, the WUSD School Board:

• Recognized DeAnna Brunner, a teacher at Lakeview Elementary School, for achieving the status of National Board Certified Teacher from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

To achieve certification, teachers need to submit a four-part portfolio and take an assessment exam — a process that takes most of a school year to complete. About half of the teachers undergoing this process reportedly reach the certification stage because of the rigor involved.

• Issued contract extensions and letters of intent through the 2022-23 school year to a dozen administrators across the district. The process is a formality for long-term planning.

The extensions for the two upcoming school years were given to Pate-Hefty and other top-level administrators, including Matthew Sylvester-Knudtson, director of business services; Lanora Heim, director of pupil services; Kelly Seichter, director of curriculum and instruction; and Andrew Rowland, director of technology.

Rounding out the list of recipients were the seven building principals or associate principals.


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