School District of La Crosse welcoming back students for fall semester

"We've spent about four months basically thinking about reopening schools," superintendent Aaron Engel says

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The School District of La Crosse is preparing to welcome all students back to class in the fall.

Besides the usual social distancing and cleaning requirements, students can expect some shifting around.

“So we’ve spent four months basically thinking about reopening schools,” superintendent Aaron Engel said.

Engel says the goal is to teach both elementary and middle school kids in class every day.

“And then we know at the high school, it will be an alternating schedule with some students present and some students online in various days,” Engel said.

Engel says it’s a tall task if elementary students had to learn on their own.

“It would be very difficult for a lot of our families to provide care and supervision of their child while they’re working if school was not in session,” Engel said.

Learning in a regular classroom may not be enough if the risk is too high.

“We may have to relocate classrooms to larger spaces like the cafeteria or the gymnasium,” Engel said.

Wearing a face covering won’t be required for everything.

“We know that there are circumstances and situations where face coverings will be less necessary or not possible,” Engel said.

But if your student is going to ride on the bus, they must wear one.

“We have to consider that parents may want to self-transport if they are not comfortable with their student riding the bus in these conditions,” executive director of business services Patty Sprang said during Monday night’s school board meeting.

Most parents and children are on-board coming back, whether that’s learning in class, online, or both.

“At the same time though, we know that there are elementary students and parents who don’t feel comfortable or for medical reasons cannot return,” Engel said. “Parents really have the choice to choose the mode of instruction that’s best for them.”

But despite taking all these precautions, the board’s months-long work of planning can go to waste.

“If there’s a significant safety concern, we’ll shut down schools as a whole or individual schools as necessary,” Engel said.

The district is closely following recommendations from the La Crosse County Health Department, the Department of Public Instruction, the CDC and other organizations.

Engel says traditional learning will happen again once the La Crosse area has enough treatment, or if there is herd immunity.