Nearly 20 percent of La Crosse district students enrolled in virtual academy

March 13: Where is News 8 Today?

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Almost 1,200 students in the La Crosse School District — nearly 20 percent of the student body — have enrolled in the Coulee Region Virtual Academy, Superintendent Aaron Engel told the school board Monday night.
Enrollment closed at midnight Sunday, Engel said, and the numbers may change because some parents had asked questions that need to be answered.
The percentage of La Crosse District students who have signed up for the academy varies among schools, ranging from 12 percent at some to 50 percent, he said. The tuition-free academy also is open to students in the public school districts of Bangor, West Salem, Onalaska, and Holmen.
Engel said parent reaction to his announcement last week that district schools would open virtually on Sept. 1 has been mixed, with some positive and “plenty of negatives.”
The adverse reactions are understandable because of the “significant decisions” facing parents during the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
About 50 staff members have expressed interest in teaching virtually, which is close to the number the district would need to provide online schooling, Engel said.
Representatives of all of the districts in the virtual academy have discussed sharing staffs in the endeavor, Engel said.
The district itself is finalizing instructional models for the beginning of schools and as the school year proceeds, he said.
When board member Pelli Lee asked about how the pandemic scheduling will affect other employees’ jobs, Engel assured him that there will be plenty of work for all staffers, including teachers, teacher assistants, food service employees, and all others.
Foodservice workers will be preparing meals for delivery, and cleaning workers still will be needed, he said.
With continuing indications that Catholic schools plan to open with in-person classes, the La Crosse district still will be responsible for busing to those schools, said Engel, although public schools plan to follow La Crosse County Health Department advice to open virtually.
“If private schools do choose to open, we are obligated by law to provide transportation … with public school dollars,” the superintendent said.
If that happens, the district will take steps to ensure the safety of school employees and bus drivers working under contract.

In another action, the board told Engel to complete a review of the School Resource Officer program so the board can decide whether to continue, modify or end the SRO program when its pact with the La Crosse Police Department ends in June.
The board stipulated that he should provide options for stakeholders to provide feedback to the board about the SRO program. It directed Engel to create an online archive of that feedback to be accessible to the public on the school district’s website.
The board charged Engel with providing a recommendation on the SRO program no later than Nov. 16 to allow transition time if the board votes to change or end the program.

The school board stipulated several items in its charge to the superintendent.