School district takes measures against pandemic

Shorewood School District, in conjunction with other North Shore districts including Whitefish Bay, closed at 5 p.m. on March 13 to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, commonly referred to as “coronavirus,” a virus that causes the disease COVID19. The closing applies to all four schools, activities before and after school, the Recreation Department, the pools, the Fitness Center and Milestones. School was tentatively set to resume on April 13 but is now closed indefinitely in accordance with Governor Evers’s mandate.

We are supporting closures before community transmission is confirmed to greatly reduce further spread of the COVID19 in the community,” said Bryan Davis, superintendent, in an announcement sent out to Shorewood families on March 13. “We recommend that you follow the CDC and Public Health Department guidelines regarding social distancing and group size for gathering.”

According to Davis’s announcement, more information and updates on the situation are available on the COVID19 District webpage.

The District continues to post updates on their official website’s COVID19 page and on their official Facebook page. 

One of these updates concerns free meals for minors. According to the District’s Facebook page, starting on March 16, the District is providing anyone age 18 or younger, regardless of Shorewood Schools enrollment status, Shorewood residency status or income level, with free breakfast and lunch available for pickup every weekday during the extended closure. Those 18 or under can pick up the meals in the Shorewood High School Arena Lobby. To receive the meals, minors must pick up the meals themselves.

“…Delivery of meals to people not present at the pick up site is not possible,” a post said. “If our school closures are extended, we will provide meals throughout the extent of our school closures.”

Another update from Davis, posted to the District website on March 17, addresses student learning during the shutdown.

“While we shared with you last week that we are unable to meet the instructional requirements set by the Department of Public Instruction for virtual learning, the Shorewood School District is dedicated to ensuring our students stay connected to school during this extended closure,” Davis said in the update. “To that end, we are working as a district to provide students with virtual learning activities to keep them engaged during the extended time off.”

The update says that teachers at every grade level met to develop the District’s Virtual Learning Plan.

The goal for our virtual activities is to maintain connections with our students and families.

— Bryan Davis, superintendent

“The goal for our virtual activities is to maintain connections with our students and families,” Davis said. “During this time of isolation, we are focusing on providing familiarity and connections to boost student wellness and enhance academic achievement. We can help families provide routines and academic resources for students while still providing family flexibility.”

The plans will not meet the requirements set by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for several reasons.

“[The virtual learning] plans would need to include specific accommodations for individual students, virtual face to face teacher/student time and virtual instruction equal to the amount of time students are typically in school for the regular school day,” Davis said. “The virtual plans we provide will also not include graded assignments or due dates at this time. However, we are strongly encouraging our students and families to participate as they are able, understanding that this time is difficult and stressful for families.”

Virtual learning is set to begin on March 30 and run through the length of the closures. Students will need internet access and at least one device per family. According to Davis’s update, families in need of a device and/or internet access can fill out a survey on the District website and will be contacted by the technology department by the end of the day on March 20. Devices will be assigned based on availability and need.

Though Shorewood will currently not be able to fulfill DPI time requirements through virtual learning, the DPI said in a March 16 press release that they will waive state-mandated hour requirements at districts’ requests during this emergency.

Districts will still need to file a waiver, per state law, but the DPI will work to ensure an expedited process,” the press release said. “Additionally, the DPI is asking Gov. Tony Evers to suspend a portion of the Wisconsin Administrative Code temporarily, so districts can use one simplified form and have it granted immediately. The DPI expects the process to be implemented through the coming weeks… The DPI will work with the Wisconsin State Legislature and Gov. Evers around suspending state testing requirements this spring due to the unprecedented circumstances. Discussions will continue around the potential impact these policy changes have with regard to the DPI’s annual Accountability Report Cards.”

The DPI is constantly monitoring and updating its COVID19 updates webpage.

In terms of athletic activities, all practices, games and matches will be canceled during the shutdown.

Social distancing is key at this time.

— LeVar Ridgeway, athletic director

“Students are not to meet up to practice together,” said LeVar Ridgeway, athletic director. “Social distancing is key at this time. Student-athletes are encouraged to work out on their own. Coaches are able to give workout plans to student-athletes after the official WIAA start date for that sport.”

Should the break run longer than expected, students will receive more updates from the Athletic Department.

“Decisions will be made at the administrative level and we will follow what is recommended,” Ridgeway said.

For students applying to college and scholarships and preparing to take AP exams, or even those simply concerned about their grades, the pandemic situation may be a cause of stress. According to Scott Brown, SHS counselor and AP coordinator, the SHS counselors are still available to help, despite the shutdowns.

“Just know that we’ll do whatever we can to help… I’ve had a lot of people already reach out like, ‘What’s going to happen with my grades?’” Brown said. “We don’t know at this point, but like nobody’s going to be harmed. Something will be figured out, and we’ll push through.”

Students can email their counselors and set up phone calls if necessary. Counselors can still send transcripts and letters of recommendation.

“…If you ask or reach out we’re still definitely available in some sort of virtual way,” Brown said.

In terms of AP exams, in a call to the College Board, Brown learned that late testing without fees is a current option available for schools that lost instructional time from shutdowns due to the pandemic. The exams will still be held on the original dates in early to mid-May. Late testing days are May 2022.

“This is very fluid, and I imagine it will change in the future,” Brown said.

Brown thinks that mental health is an important focus during this time.

“I don’t know if kids are connected with the Student Support Instagram, but there was a nice piece that Ms. Norris put out about mental health during the break, and things that we would recommend from that perspective are typically like get outside; it’s really important to be in nature, and luckily you can still do that even if you can’t gather,” Brown said. “So get outside in the sunlight. Try to connect with people. Obviously you’ll be able to connect with your family, but if you can use technology like FaceTime or Skype, connect with others, that would be a great way to keep up with friends, even if you can’t do that [in person]. And you know, just trying to take breaks from the news, because, you know, right now everything is looking pretty awful, so it’s okay to take a break from that…”