It doesn’t look like the La Crosse School District will be reopening schools on Oct. 5.
“Yep we’re probably not going to be in school,” Superintendent, Dr. Aaron Engel said Tuesday on La Crosse Talk PM. “Right now, with the case rate (the way) it is, and in the positivity rate the way it is, there’s really not a way we can reopen our school safely, or anticipate it being safe at this point.”
So, when will schools reopen? That’s up to COVID-19, at this point — or at least those who are contributing to its spread. Engel said to bring elementary students back, with the model they’re using, the case rate would have to be around 24 a day. Right now, it’s over 100.
“It’s just a concerted community effort to get there,” Engel said. “We’ll look at the case rate two weeks in advance and if it looks like it’s trending downwards, we’re getting a good testing rate — if all the signs indicate to yes, then we’ll plan on opening again.”
That keeps the burden on parents and, now, a date unknown when they’ll be able to send their children to school.
“A lot of folks have been kind of counting on, ‘Hey, if I can just get through this month, then my kid can get back to school and I’ll be able to make it.’” Engel said. “And I’m totally empathetic to those concerns.
“At the same time, you know we can’t in good conscience bring kids and teachers back when the conditions indicate we’re going to contribute to spread and endanger folks.”
In late summer, the district made the decision to postpone bringing students back into schools for a month. Engel said things were trending in the right direction in early September. Not now, of course.
“Oct. 5 is the date that we had initially planned to return students to school, assuming everything was going well in the county,” Engel said. “Obviously, as we look at La Crosse County, it’s had a rate of increase in cases that tops the nation in many metrics.”
Engel has been on the job since July, coming from superintendent duties the past five years at the Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau School District.
He said it’s been a bit eerie being it’s September with empty hallways and playgrounds.
A global pandemic isn’t the only thing that’s been thrown into the mix for Engel. There is also the matter of whether or not the district will continue its relationship with the La Crosse Police Department.
There has already been one community forum to discuss the matter. Another happens at 6 p.m. Oct. 12 (Facebook event page here).