La Crosse area schools not fully reopening unless we make a ‘small, shared sacrifice,’ Gundersen expert says

The latest Coulee COVID-19 Collaborative report shows La Crosse County's newest case rate is 28.8 per 100,000 people per day

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The latest Coulee COVID-19 Collaborative report shows La Crosse County’s newest case rate is 28.8 per 100,000 people per day.

That’s a slight increase from last week’s 26.9 cases per 100,000.

The goal for La Crosse, Onalaska, and Holmen school districts is to return to at least some form of in-person learning when the case rate is at 25 or below. Those three have been doing just virtual learning so far this school year.

Whether or not it’s safe enough for some La Crosse area schools to welcome back students again…

“It’s a hard question without a clear answer,” Gundersen Health System infectious disease physician Dr. Todd Kowalski said.

Based on last week’s county case rate, La Crosse, Onalaska and Holmen schools all decided to return to some form of in-person learning Oct. 26.

But this week, La Crosse school leaders changed their minds.

“What we do is, is we try to give people the information, the data and the evidence so that the school districts can make their own decisions the best for their constituents,” Kowalski said.

Earlier this week, La Crosse superintendent Aaron Engel said the district may pull back because cases are going up again.

“These are really difficult decisions,” Kowalski said.

Kowalski says whether schools decide to open or not, he understands why these decisions are hard to make.

“There’s something we can and should all be talking about and agreeing upon,” Kowalski said. “And that is the things that we can do to make the communities in a much better place in terms of COVID risk, so that everyone can agree that schools ought to be open.”

All it takes for that to happen, Kowalski says, is for all of us to cooperate in a safe manner.

“It can be frustrating sometimes if we don’t see the bigger picture in the greater good that we can contribute to from a small, shared sacrifice as an individual,” Kowalski said.

Kids in 4K through fifth grade at West Salem are currently learning in-person, while 6th through 12th grade students are in a blended model. That’s because their threshold to bring students back is less than 35 cases per 100,000 in the county.