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La Crosse Schools Superintendent addresses feedback about school reopen plan

Kaitlyn Riley

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It has been a mix of reviews for the La Crosse School District since the announcement last week that students will return to classes virtually for the first month.

At Monday night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Aaron Engel said some families expressed gratitude for the school’s concern for safety.

“In that regard, we’ve also heard plenty of negative feedback about individuals concerned about starting the school year virtually, which we anticipated knowing that this would be a significant decision for many people in our community,” Engel said.

One major concern is technology. Students from kindergarten through 12th grade will have access to a device but may struggle with understanding how the device works.

“A key component to the start of our year will be familiarizing students with technology and the platforms they will use,” Engel said.

Access to the internet is another issue parents raised. Engel said the technology department is working to provide options for families that need hot spots or low-cost options from local providers.

Beyond access to virtual schooling, childcare poses another problem.

“There are many families working during the day, and being able to supervise their children is difficult or an impossibility,” Engel said. “We’ve reached out to the Boys and Girls Club and to the YMCA and a number of community partners to see if there is an opportunity for us to work together.”

He also suggested utilizing staff that may not be as highly engaged while the virtual format is used to provide child care at remote sites. School Board Member Jeff Meyer asked Engel why then they could not offer some face-to-face learning options.

“There are some inherent contradictions in what we are allowed to do for school at this time versus the child care that is allowed to be provided,” Engel responded. “We are still working through with the county why those differences exist.”

The enrollment period for the Coulee Region Virtual Academy closed Sunday at midnight. Up to 1,169 students were enrolled representing about 18 percent of the student body, but Engel warned some may be duplicates, so that number may decrease. The district is also still reaching out to families who had questions.

Engel said almost 50 staff members expressed interest in teaching virtually, which is close to the number needed to launch that instruction. The Coulee Region Virtual Academy is done in collaboration with West Salem, Onalaska, Holmen, and Bangor School Districts.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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