La Crescent-Hokah district, Logan Middle School move to temporary virtual learning

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — With COVID-19 cases on the rise, schools are paying the price. La Crescent-Hokah public schools is pausing in-person learning beginning tomorrow through next week.

In La Crosse, Logan Middle School was closed for in-person instruction in favor of asynchronous classes Thursday and Friday. A combination of rising cases and low substitute teacher numbers are straining area schools.

Superintendent Aaron Engel said that temporarily closing Logan was a last resort.

“Over the last couple of months, we’ve had on average about 100 staff absences a day,” Engel said. “And on average, we’ve been able to fill between 60 and 80% of those. So we’ve had unfilled absences every single day of the school year.”

At Onalaska’s School District, Superintendent Todd Antony says they’re feeling that strain.

“Having to make—think about making the decision to go virtual here again is like a last resort, worst-case-scenario,” Antony said.

Throughout the region, other staff members have had to cover for absences. But most schools have been able to avoid going virtual until now.

“We’ve been teetering on the edge since we came back from break with a number of our schools,” Engel said.

Engel tells me that in this case, Logan Middle School did not have enough classroom teachers, or cover, to keep those kids in person.

“We sent kids home because we didn’t think we could properly supervise them, which is a safety issue,” Engel said.

Jennifer Olson, a parent of a kid at Logan Middle, is concerned about what’s to come.

“It’s a bit frustrating because just don’t know what’s going to happen. Are they going to be able to go back to school on Monday? Is two days enough for them to find substitutes? Is it going to work out next week? What if this happens at the end of next week?” Olson said.

As the month goes on, district leaders hope an end is in sight. Engel says the district is working out a plan to serve students’ in-person needs, even with high levels of unfilled absences.

“For the next three to four weeks, this is going to be a daily struggle to staff our buildings. We just hope everyone can do what they can to help out by limiting spread,” Engel said.