Onalaska, Holmen schools announce plans to go back in-person March 22

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) — Onalaska and Holmen schools announced this week that they will bring students in middle and high school back to the building five days a week starting March 22.

The two school districts sent out letters to students’ families Tuesday and Wednesday noting that the drop in community spread of COVID-19 has indicated that will be safe to bring students back to the classroom full-time by the end of the month.

“We are thankful that our community numbers continue to drop from the high numbers we experienced in November and December; we are also thankful for the low incidence rate in all of our district’s schools,” said Onalaska Superintendent Todd Antony.

When middle and high school students return, each classroom will look different depending on the square footage of the room and maximum number of students in the class, according to Antony. All other mitigation measures will remain in effect.

“We will utilize the six feet guideline when conducting contact tracing related to an identified positive case.  A positive case will result in identified close contacts and the need for those individuals to quarantine.  Because the six foot distancing guideline cannot be ensured, shortened quarantine periods will not be considered for middle and high school students,” he said.

The district will work on realigning class schedules on OMS, reworking transportation routes and setting up learning spaces.

“We are excited to be at a place to take this important step in bringing all students back full time,” Antony said.

In Holmen, the district has reached its final phase of bringing students back and plans to bring middle and high school students back full time for five days a week.

“In the School District of Holmen, our number of active cases is reflective of this decline with single digit active cases consistently. Daily updates can be found on our District Covid-19 Dashboard. This tells us that our schools are safe and our mitigation strategies are working,” said District Administrator Kristin Mueller.

The district will continue to use the “Swiss cheese” model of mitigation.

“This means face coverings, hand washing protocols, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, and the increased air exchanges with our upgraded filtration will remain in place. In being honest and transparent, the strategy that will change with the increase of students at the middle and high school is physical distancing,” she said.

Students won’t be able to be kept six-feet apart at all times, which means it will be more important than ever for families to screen students for symptoms before sending them to school.

“Your partnership with this mitigation strategy is of primary importance in ensuring the health of our school community as we return more students in person,” Mueller said.

Both districts will be doing contact tracing and letting parents know when there are close contacts with cases of COVID-19 and will need to quarantine.

“We are thankful for our community and their efforts. While we have many positive trends in COVID-19 data to celebrate, it is more important than ever that we stay vigilant with public health measures in and outside of school,” Mueller said.