West Salem schools open after two weeks of virtual learning

West Salem School District welcomes students back; leaders hope safety measures help in-person learning continue
West Salem In Person Classes

WEST SALEM, Wis. (WKBT) – Students were back in their classrooms Monday in West Salem. This was after two weeks of online education, something district officials say worked well under the circumstances.

The ground now holds pieces of evidence (leaves) showing fall is just on the horizon. Autumn is also the sign of a new school year.

“Obviously it’s a new experience for everybody,” said Ryan Rieber, superintendent of the School District of West Salem.

This school year was met with silence on campus during the first two weeks of instruction for the West Salem School District. There’s a lot of irony in back-to-school-2020 since most children aren’t leaving their homes for this school year.

Rieber is in his first year as the leader of West Salem schools. His career in education is based on in-person learning.

“It’ll be six months ago on Thursday that the state order to shut down schools,” he said.

Educators had to throw out everything they knew about education, and reorganize a new plan six months later. They created a plan, so a person can bet Mr. Rieber had a smile on his face knowing they could manage virtual learning.

“That’s a big step when you’re used to teaching face to face,” Rieber said.

Monday, the school gave its students a chance to return to some form of what existed before the pandemic.

“It’s been fabulous to walk around all three of our buildings so far today and see our buildings alive with learners in them,” Rieber said.

The challenge now is controlling a virus that has the nation’s brightest scientists scratching their heads.

“Really it’s control what we can control,” Rieber said.

Educators are controlling who enters their buildings, and the number of students in each classroom. Every sanitary practice that’s been played on a loop all summer long Rieber says they’ve put into practice.

Hand sanitizing stations around the building have a goal of killing germs like a surgeon prepping for the operating room.

“In between periods they scrub in and then they scrub out as they are leaving,” Rieber said. “We are really working on that hand hygiene.

“We’re going through deep cleanings on a nightly basis.”

He said they aren’t telling students what they can’t do. They are teaching them to see the role they play in helping their home community slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Really it’s a life skill, and knowing that any decision you make is going to have an effect on others,” Rieber said.

The school’s preparation and practices won’t solve COVID-19. Rieber hopes their measures buy them time to see their students in person as long as possible.

“We’re happy the fact our kids are back,” Rieber said.

Time spent with their students is the reason teachers chose to pursue a life in the classroom. Rieber said his district is working closely with the La Crosse County Health Department.  He said if the district needs to go back to virtual learning, they are prepared to do so immediately.