(The Center Square) – There will most likely be at least one day of distance learning for kids across Wisconsin in the next school year. 

The state’s Department of Instruction on Monday released its recommendations for restarting school in the fall. 

The Education Forward proposal begins with a warning from State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford-Taylor. 

“While I expect schools to reopen this fall, they will undoubtedly look different,” Stanford-Taylor said. “There will need to be social distancing, new cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and changes to how educators deliver instruction. There will be students who are not able to return to school due to health concerns and students and staff who may be quarantined due to exposure. This means every school district will need to plan for both school operations on campus and remote learning.”

DPI is suggesting four options for local schools: 

  • A four-day week, with a day of deep cleaning on Wednesday. 
  • A two-day on, two-day off schedule. Half of the students would go to school on Monday and Tuesday. The other half would go to school on Thursday and Friday. 
  • A weekly rotation. Half the students would go to school for four days one week, then learn from home the next week. The other half would learn from home, then go to school the following week. 
  • A plan to teach younger kids in-person, and older kids from home. DPI is recommending that elementary school students attend in-person classes, while junior high and high school students would learn from home. 

Ultimately though, Stanford-Taylor said it will be up to local school leaders to decide what their school year will look like. 

“Due to the extensive variance in schools, this guidance is offered as a workbook to be considered in conjunction with the Department of Health Services risk assessment checklist,” Stanford-Taylor said. “Please use these tools to discuss school district reopening plans with local health agencies and ensure information is complete in regards to the magnitude of risk associated with options being considered.”

The Education Forward plan makes a couple of assumptions, including that the coronavirus will continue to be a problem for the next year-and-a-half. 

“A vaccine is not likely to be in broad use during the next 12-18 months,” the report states. “Another wave of infections could occur resulting in changes to operations or closure. Short-term closures of schools will remain a possibility until a vaccine is widely used.”

Stanford-Taylor is also recommending that local schools take “equity” into account when planning for reopening. 

“COVID-19 is highlighting and widening educational inequities previously existing in our school system and disproportionately impacting some communities and groups of students,” the report states. 

The recommendations include questions that local school leaders should ask, including “What might help staff notice biases in working with people different from themselves?”

Wisconsin’s 421 school districts, 26 independent charter schools, and 792 private schools will now have to take the report and come up with their own, specific plan for reopening by September.

Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.

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