Students in Tomah return to school next week but with some changes

Next week students in one area school district will be heading back into the classroom. Lemonweir elementary school in Tomah follows the 45/15 calendar. And nearly 300 students will be showing up to class next week.

“Our parents are anxious as well, so I’m eager to have them all back here,” said Nicki Pope, Principal of Lemonweir.

Families in the Tomah community have expressed that getting back to school, in-person is what they want.

“The message that we have been telling our families is that their child’s safety has been our first and utmost responsibility from day one, this just adds a different layer to it,” said Pope.

“The district is well positioned to move forward to build that balance between our path of our safety measures and moving to a high quality educational environment,” said Mike Hanson, Tomah Area School District’s new superintendent.

In an effort to stay safe, extra cleaning measures will be put in place, hand sanitizing stations are positioned in every classroom, and seating will spread out.

“We will make sure that we are trying to socially distance as often as possible, keeping them in a cohort type of setting so a classroom will really only be around their classmates. So we’ve separated our recesses, our lunch times, really focusing on keeping them with that same group of 15-16 kids like you would with your family,” said Pope.

Masks are not required, but they are highly encouraged for staff. And for the families that aren’t so eager to send their kiddos back to school,

“This building, being a 45-15 calendar, provides choice for families if they want to be on that calendar. And we’re continuing on with that message. If they’re not comfortable with their kids coming back into their brick and mortar setting right now, we’re providing an online, virtual option for them,” said Pope.

But Sharon Seely, a first grade teacher at Lemonweir, feels the learning that takes place in person is much more effective.

“When you’re teaching a kid to read it’s a lot about sitting there next to them, getting them excited about the books they’re reading, and helping guide them. Actually touching the book that they’re reading and saying, let’s look at this part of the word,” said Seely.

She says that virtual learning was difficult for students in the spring, and the first few weeks back they’ll be catching up.

“I think every classroom will be the same, where we’re going to have to see where our kids are. And then fill those gaps,” said Seely. “I’m looking forward to having my students here, and meeting their families. I’m looking forward to those two things and getting going.”

Seely told us that when it comes to items that are usually shared, like pencils, scissors and markers, each student will get their own set to keep separate from others.