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La Crosse School District update from school resource officers to snow days in a pandemic

Kaitlyn Riley

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Students in the La Crosse School District are set to continue learning online through Oct. 18, but as the pandemic continues, the district continues working on everything from a snow day contingency plan to what will happen with the school resource officer program.

“Unfortunately, the conditions in our community have not approved to the point where we feel that we can safely bring students and staff back in person,” La Crosse School District Superintendent Dr. Aaron Engel said. “The recent numbers have certainly shown some improvement, and we’re hopeful that continues and that we can anticipate in the near future that we would be able to bring students back in person.”

Engel said they are relying on the Harvard Global Health Institutes Model to help make those decisions.

“We’re hopeful sooner rather than later we are able to bring students back in person,” he added. “We know that’s where many of our students learn best, and we want to be able to provide that as soon as we can.”

As the year progresses, the district also has to consider its options for snow days. Engel said because students are currently learning from home, there may be options to deliver instruction on what would typically be considered a snow day, but there are still several factors to consider. Students need to have their devices already at home and will still require access to high-quality internet. Additionally, teachers need to be prepared to deliver content online.

Engel also faces a November deadline to make an official recommendation for the school resource officer program. The $250,000 contract with the La Crosse Police Department expires in June, and the community is conflicted over whether or not police should be in schools.

Last week, Mayor Tim Kabat predicted the program would go away or significantly change. Superintendent Engel said they are not ready to throw out the program yet.

“I think that’s a bit premature,” Engel said. “We are in the middle of reviewing the program. We’ve had plenty of parents speak on the value of that program. We know that there are some negative effects nationwide with some SRO programs, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily here. At the same time, we’ve definitely heard from students and from community members that have concerns about the SRO program, and we want to fully investigate that and ensure that everything we do for students is leading to a positive environment for them.”

Engel said he looked forward to diving in even further before providing a recommendation for the school board to consider.

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.