by Dr. Annette Freiheit, WAPS superintendent
Hello Winona Area Public Schools families,
We are happy to announce that we will shift to Winhawk learning model number three, which means that grades 7-12 will move to a hybrid model beginning on Monday, September 28.
Early childhood and elementary (grades K-6) will remain in a hybrid model as well.
Also, athletics for grades 7-12 will resume beginning on Tuesday, September 22, while athletics for grades 5-6 and activities for grades 5-8 will begin on Monday, October 5.
As part of the change in learning model, Wednesday, September 23, has been designated an instructional planning day for grades 7-12. Students will log on to Schoology to check their messages and assignments, however, teachers will not be available for interaction in order to plan to welcome students back into the classroom on Monday, September 28.
We made our decision in consultation with our regional support team and other local public health officials. We are aware the most recent Minnesota Department of Health report indicated the 14-day case rate for Winona County was above 50 per 10,000 residents — a number that would recommend distance learning for all. However, that data is from August 23 through September 5, meaning those cases were from the height of the spike and no longer accurately reflect the current situation in our community. Also, the rate is meant to be one data point that districts use when deciding to change their learning model, and it is recommended that districts look for a change in rate over time.
Over the last two weeks, the daily report of positive cases has continued to fall from the peak in late August and early September. We have every reason to think that the rate will continue to fall in the weeks to come. We have heard the same from local public health officials who support our plan to move to a less restrictive model and resume athletics. The change also puts us in line with other educational institutions in Winona and the surrounding areas.
Complete results from the two-day testing event are not yet available, but local officials have said positive cases were in line with recent infection rates, and a 100-case backlog reported last Friday included many old cases.
We mention this not to disregard any fears, but to put the recent COVID-19 numbers into perspective. Our top priorities are the health and safety of our students. We strongly believe that we have the right COVID-19 protocols in place, staff members in all of our buildings who will enforce them with compassion and students who are willing and able to follow them.
We also believe that when considering the health and safety of our students, we must consider their mental health as well. We have heard from many students and families who are concerned that the lack of interaction with their peers is detrimental to their mental health, and allowing them to come back to school and to resume athletics — in a safe, controlled environment — is meeting the needs of our students, our families and our community.
To remind families in grades 7-12, in a hybrid model, students attend school in-person two days a week and receive distance learning instruction on the other three days. Group A students attend in-person on Monday and Tuesday, while Group B students attend in-person on Thursday and Friday.
If you do not know your student group, you can find it on the parent portal in Infinite Campus. After logging in, on the left-hand side of the page, click on “Documents,” then click “Schedule” to open the schedule. The group will be listed at the bottom of the schedule document.
The hybrid model plans for grades 7-12 may be found on the WAPS Safe Learning Plan website at winonaschools.org/safe, but here are a few main highlights:
• Schedules for students at the Winona Middle School, Winona Senior High School and Winona Area Learning Center have been set up the same for both a hybrid and a distance learning model schedule, so there will be no change to your student’s schedule.
• This will also not affect students who have opted-in to distance learning.
• The transportation department is working on establishing routes for students in grades 7-12 who need busing.
• Any students who do not feel comfortable returning to school may opt-in to distance learning. Please contact your building secretary to request to make the change. It may take up to 72 business hours for change requests to be honored.
• We will continue to monitor the situation and make alterations to our WAPS Safe Learning Plan as deemed necessary.
It is extremely important that we continue to follow the recommended health and safety protocols. Wear a mask. Practice physical distancing from those not in your household. Wash your hands. Stay home when sick. We all have a part to play.
We want to thank our students and our families for their patience, kindness and empathy to start the school year. We are beyond excited to welcome our grade 7-12 students back into their buildings next week.