Gov. Tony Evers directed the closure of all public and private schools in the state of Wisconsin due to the coronavirus pandemic in a statement released last Friday afternoon.
The rule will take effect Thursday morning in Osceola and the district is set to remain closed through April 6.
The decision comes a week after an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 visited the Osceola School district for a Destination Imagination event on March 7. The school closed temporarily following that incident, but had since reopened.
Superintendent Mark Luebker said the decision to close all schools statewide didn’t take the district completely by surprise.
“We were definitely planning for worst case scenario,” he said. “But we hadn’t been made aware of (the closure) until Friday.”
The school administration spent a better part of the weekend in the office finalizing their plan for the shutdown and putting a system in place to maintain student curriculum during the closure.
Luebker said the curriculum the district will provide will be focused solely on maintaining what students have learned so far throughout the school year so as not to lose ground during the closure.
“We are not providing new instruction for kids,” Luebker said.
Much of this is due to lack of Internet access for some students when they are not at school.
“We don’t have the capacity in our district to have our technology devices off site,” Luebker said.
Access to computers is especially crucial at the high school level, and Luebker said the curriculum for those students during the shutdown will depend on what classes they’re currently enrolled in.
“There could be pockets of regular programming for kids that are taking classes like AP history or calculus that they can complete through Google classroom,” he said.
“But it will be different depending on the coursework the kids are taking.”
At a younger level, the district will be sending kids home with the curriculum they need.
“We’re going to be putting together packets of information for them and we’re also going to be getting books checked out from the library,” he said.
In addition to curriculum, the district will also continue to provide lunch for any students who need it during the shutdown.
“We applied for a waiver through the Department of Public Instruction to provide that,” Luebker said. “So we’re able to provide food for all students free of charge, not just those that qualify for free and reduced lunch.”
The district will be using its transportation department to deliver these lunches during the shutdown. Luebker said families will be able to sign up for these meals should they choose to but are not required do take the lunches if they don’t need them.
“We’re just providing it to those that get back to us,” he said.
The district is reaching out to families about the meals via email as well as backpack stuffer notes that went home with kids on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The upcoming school referendum will also feel the impact of the shutdown. The district cancelled a community meeting on the issue that was set to take place on Monday, March 16 and will likely also cancel the meeting scheduled for March 30.
“We are having the discussion that we will likely look at providing something online on March 30 so people can call in to ask questions,” he said.
Luebker said the most important thing in the coming weeks will be to stay informed and be diligent about following any requirements put forth by health experts.
“For the United States and Polk County and Osceola in general, these are uncharted waters,” he said. “The best thing we can do is listen to the experts. So do everything that everyone is telling you to do and that will minimize the spread of COVID-19.”