Tomah school continues teaching students in person

TOMAH, Wis. (WKBT) – Lemonweir  Elementary, in Tomah is setting the example for in-person classes for school districts across our region. The elementary school opened mid-June, and students returned to the classroom.  A little less than a week later, a student was a presumed positive for COVID-19.  Now, the school is implementing mask wearing, more social distancing… and cleaning measures.

Social distance, masks and cleaning are all things that have been ramped up since the beginning of the school year at Lemonweir.

“Within the classrooms, we had originally tried to just separate them all as far apart as possible. After some recent discoveries, that came to light, we were able to change our philosophy within the classroom to create more of a pod, and then separate those students from six feet from each other,” said Nicki Pope, principal of Lemonweir Elementary.

A few weeks ago, a student at the elementary school was presumed to be positive for COVID-19.

“Things change and evolve daily or weekly, but we’ve got a great team at Lemonweir,” said Mike Hanson, superintendent of Tomah Area School District.

School leadership made the necessary changes, they moved their dismissal time and reevaluated their classroom set-ups. Along with those changes, Governor Evers issued the mask mandate, that requires students to wear masks in schools.

“The first day back we had students that overwhelmingly came in ready and prepared,” said Pope.

Pope said they haven’t had too significant of an issue reinforcing mask wearing, instead she compared it to something they usually see during winter time.

“A mitten situation.. where they misplace them, or we’re losing them throughout different areas throughout the building,” said Pope.

The school has also taken measures to keep kids in their classrooms, separated from peers.

“Eating in the classroom, eating breakfast and lunch within the classroom, and having recess separate,” said Pope.

And, janitorial staff is working all day to clean frequently touched surfaces.

“If there’s an area that’s being utilized, we came up with a system where we put a sticky note there, that someone has been there and so he knows to wipe it down,” said Pope.

The school has not had another presumed positive COVID-19 case since the first incident in July.

Principal Pope encourages other districts to reach out and learn from Lemonweir when they are planning the transition from virtual learning back to in person classes.  We are unable to confirm if the minor tested positive for COVID-19, but the school has treated the incident as if the student did test positive.