La Crosse educators ready to return to classrooms, district begins phased return Wednesday

Longfellow Middle School principal says after 300 plus days of virtual education he's ready to see students again
Lax Schools Prep For In Person

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – La Crosse students are going back to in-person learning Wednesday. School leaders say there is an opportunity to bring students into classrooms safely.

Silence existed in this building for what Longfellow Middle School principal Matt Kitzerow said was too long.

“We haven’t had students in our building since March 17, 2020,” Kitzerow said. I think it’s like 321 school days or something. We counted. It’s gonna feel surreal.”

Kitzerow circled Feb. 1st. It’s the day students return to Longfellow.

“Lots of preparation that really has been going on since last summer,” Kitzerow said.

Not every student will return.

“For us to bring back 100 percent of our kids we would not be able to maintain six feet social distancing,” he said.

Some students will return in-person and others will learn online, the new status quo in education.

“Our teachers are working so hard to build relationships with kids while they’re at home,” Kitzerow said.

Back to school for real, people might say. Northside Elementary school’s date is Wednesday. Kindergarten, first and second graders will fill hallways thirsting for human presence. Northside Elementary principal Laura Huber said this is an adjustment for students.

“I think they’ll need to learn the routines, but I also think they’re very happy to come back,” Huber said.

The next grades will phase into in-person instruction over the next few weeks. Some obvious protocols include things like masks and social distancing. Desks are spaced six feet apart from one another. It’s an exact science. Teachers and staff measure the distance between each desk.

“Even our people who don’t teach math were practicing some old math,” Kitzerow said with a smile.

Case spread is inevitable with this virus. Kitzerow said quarantine rooms are in place for students who develop symptoms. Communication plans are ready to let parents know. The cleaning staff knows what to clean the moment the need arises.

After 300 plus days of remote education, leaders believe now is the time to return.

“The research has shown that we can open schools safely,” Kitzerow said.

Learning from home produces pictures and sounds, but there’s something missing.

“We know that our little ones have a hard time learning online,” Huber said.

Relationships and pure energy exist in the classroom.

“I’ve missed them,” Huber said. “It’s great to have the teachers back. It’s great to have the kids back.”

Pretty soon personalities will sit at these desks. Kitzerow said middle school students bring joy to his life.

“(They are) hilarious, intelligent, creative,” he said. “It’s my favorite age.”

For Kitzerow, Feb. 1 is a school day that can’t come soon enough.

“When students are at home, there’s just some things that are lost,” Kitzerow said.

School officials say parents will need to be involved in keeping kids home if they are sick. For a full list of return dates for students in the La Crosse School District click here.