by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Class is back in session at local K-12 schools. In light of the continuing pandemic, COVID mitigation plans also returned. A number of schools are recommending masks, but not requiring them, and several districts are not offering online learning for all students.
At the Lewiston-Altura School District, students and staff for pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, as well as all unvaccinated staff members, are required to wear masks. The district strongly recommends, but does not require, that students in seventh through 12th grade wear masks. “One of our priorities was to protect the students who do not currently have an option to be vaccinated, which is our students in pre-k through grade six,” Superintendent Gwen Carman said. She continued, “We know the unvaccinated and unmasked are the most likely to test positive and result in a quarantine, so that’s why we prioritized having unvaccinated staff wear a mask.”
Lewiston-Altura offers online learning for kindergarten through sixth grade students. The district does not provide online learning for students in seventh through 12th grade currently, but will continue to assess the need for that option, Carman said.
The district also anticipates having some COVID testing available for staff and students through the state, Carman said.
At the Cochrane-Fountain City (C-FC) School District, students and staff are required to mask up. “We want to keep as many kids in school, learning where they learn best, which is with their teacher,” Superintendent Jo-Ellen Fairbanks said.
C-FC offers virtual learning for students.
In Winona, Cotter Schools requires students and staff for kindergarten through sixth grade to wear masks, and encourages, but does not require, students and staff for seventh through 12th grade to mask up.
At the end of August, Cotter Schools President Sister Judith Schaefer said that although Cotter leaders did not have existing plans to provide online learning, they will reconsider how to address learning in cases when students have to quarantine for long time periods.
Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) requires masks when community transmission levels of COVID are substantial or high and strongly recommends, but does not require them, when transmission rates are low or moderate. Transmission levels have been consistently high for weeks across nearly the entire U.S. Some School Board members advocated for expanded masking requirements for athletic events and at times when transmission rates are lower that were rejected in split votes at the August 19 and September 3 board meetings, with School Board members Steve Schild, Karl Sonneman and Michael Hanratty voting in favor of the broader masking requirements.
The district is launching an online learning option for all students this fall.
Over the river in Wisconsin, the Galesville-Ettrick-Trempealeau (G-E-T) School District recommends, but does not require, masks.
G-E-T students will have the option to participate in distance learning if they must quarantine or it is recommended that online learning is the best way for them to receive their education.
The Arcadia School District has a masks-optional policy. Students will have the option to take part in distance learning only if they are quarantining.