by ALEXANDRA RETTER
With the start of the 2021-2022 school year fast approaching, local districts are finalizing their COVID protocol plans. The Galesville-Ettrick-Trempealeau (G-E-T) and Arcadia school districts will not require masks, and classes will be in person with distance learning for students in quarantine.
At G-E-T, district officials are recommending, but not requiring, that masks be worn indoors, per state and federal guidance, District Administrator Michele Butler said. When asked if there was any scenario in which the district would shift to requiring masks, Butler said, “At this point, we’ve been assured by the county department of health if we’re having a spike specific to our district that indicates that that’s a necessity, they’re going to work with us and guide us through that.” If guidance changes at the state or national level, she added, G-E-T would follow it.
Masks will be optional at Arcadia, District Administrator Lance Bagstad said. “And obviously, with things, as quickly as they change, that along with everything else will be very fluid,” he said. When asked if there was any scenario in which the district would shift to requiring masks, Bagstad said Arcadia will not necessarily have a high or extreme rate of transmission as a guidepost, but rather monitor the situation day by day.
Distance learning will not be as prevalent this school year in either district. Arcadia students will have the option to participate in distance learning only if they need to quarantine, Bagstad said. Students at G-E-T will also have the option to take part in distance learning if they are quarantining or have a recommendation that medically or emotionally, it is the best way for them to receive their education, Butler said.
Both districts will put some social distancing in place. Bagstad said Arcadia will implement social distancing “to the greatest extent possible,” and Butler said G-E-T’s classrooms will be set up with more spacing, “Three to six feet wherever possible.”
Keeping track of those who test positive for COVID and their close contacts will continue at both G-E-T and Arcadia. While G-E-T plans to stick with a two-week quarantine period, Butler said, Arcadia will notify those identified as close contacts, then decide with students’ families about quarantining or taking other mitigation measures, Bagstad said.
Lewiston-Altura School District Superintendent Gwen Carman declined to comment, citing an upcoming School Board meeting at which COVID protocols will be discussed. Leaders at the Cochrane-Fountain City School District and Cotter Schools did not respond to requests for comment before press time.
The Winona Area Public Schools Board will vote on COVID protocol plan on August 19 that includes masks being recommended, but not required, when transmission rates are low or moderate.