GENOA – At a July 20 Genoa-Kingston District 424 school board meeting, parents were very insistent on wanting five-day in-person learning, especially at the elementary level.
Eight days later, those requests were at least partially granted on Tuesday as the board voted 5-0 to approve the district's re-entry plan, which in its revamped form includes kindergarten classes in-person five days per week. One group will go from 8 a.m. until 10:50, the other going from 12 p.m. until 2:50 p.m., while older grade levels will be alternate days in person.
The vote was unanimous, with David Cleveland abstaining. Board member John Shipley resigned from the board officially Tuesday, since he moved to Wisconsin, he said.
If a pair of criteria are met, all elementary school classes could go five days a week as well. It would require 40 students per grade level to opt for remote learning, then the district would need to find enough long-term substitutes. It would also cost more money.
"Odds are this system isn't going to last the whole school year," Superintendent Brent O'Daniell told the board Tuesday night in the nearly four-hour meeting. "Once we go back to a regular school year there will be no need for those teachers. Plus there's the cost factor. But the main reason is it's not something we need for the entire school year."
O'Daniell said that 20% of parents are considering the remote option according to the latest parent survey, which would work out to about 24 children per grade choosing the remote option, short of what would be needed to trigger a potential five-day-a-week option for elementary students.
He said the threshold doesn't have to be hit at the start of the year. Once there are 40 students choosing the remote option and the teachers are hired, the district could go five days a week at the elementary level.
"It sounds like according to the survey we might not get there but anything can happen," O'Daniell said. "We could wind up with an outbreak and a lot of parents change their minds and go remote. They have that right. They can go remote for health reasons at anytime."
Aside from the kindergarten classes going 5 days a week, the fall re-entry plan changed little from what was presented last week.
Students will alternate every other day based on last names, with one group going Mondays and Wednesdays and the other going Tuesdays and Thursdays. The groups will alternate Fridays. School dismissal time will be at 1 p.m. and face masks will be required for all students who chose the in-person option.
Lunch will be provided at the end of the day to take home, although there will be a mid-day snack.
While public comments last week were very strongly in favor of a return to in-person education at higher levels than the plan showed, comments Tuesday were more evenly split. More teachers spoke Tuesday, with many advocating full remote learning.
"I've wanted to be a teacher my entire life," said Andrea Laben, who teaches in the district. "But I need them to be safe and I need to be safe. Otherwise the focus is not on learning and teaching but on safety. The plan presented has good measures in place but my concern is how they will be enforced. Because to be honest I've slipped. I've forgotten my mask or not washed my hands. I put people at risk when I do those things. I think it's difficult to maintain protocols consistently. I'm not saying we can't - honestly, I think the teachers and administrators in the district are pretty amazing. I'm just saying it's a concern."
A parent with three high school children in the district, Matt Krueger said he appreciated safety but wanted his kids to learn and have the high school experience.
"This is overkill," he said. "Clearly we're not scared for lives but scared we're going to get sued. ... The math does not support how many people get sick does not support this level of chaos."
The board was supposed to vote on an agreement with the Genoa Park District, which would provide child care at a discounted rate from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. at the elementary schools, but numbers were not finalized and the vote was tabled.