Remote learning continues, basketball practices scheduled
For the first time this school year, there’s a plan for allowing students back into the building in the only Door County school district that has kept classrooms closed to students since spring.
This does not mean the Gibraltar School District will reopen the building to students anytime soon, but the board did vote 4-3 Monday to amend a recommendation from school administrators about how to phase in a reopening once new cases of COVID-19 decline.
Superintendent Tina Van Meer recommended last week that the school could begin to bring students back to school on a staggered schedule if the number of new coronavirus cases during a two-week period were between 63 and 97. During the two-week period ending Nov. 9, the number of new cases was 368.
“There’s been a significant, steady climb in the wrong direction,” Van Meer said.
Board members agreed it was unlikely that the number of new cases would fall below 97 before January. Board president and former superintendent Stephen Seyfer proposed making decisions based solely on numbers within Gibraltar’s district of northern Door County (Gibraltar district) – a motion that passed.
Angela Sherman cast one of the three dissenting votes, saying the online instruction had been excellent and safe. She and board member Lauren Ward expressed major concerns about safety given Door County’s high positivity rate, the number of staff members who commute from elsewhere to the school each day, and student-athletes who could help spread the virus within the school.
Board member Mark Weborg voted in favor of Seyfer’s proposal of the reopening guidelines. He expressed concerns about students experiencing depression and student-athletes starting to lose hope and inspiration to stay in school if they had to continue to study from home.
Under the recommendation from the administration one week earlier, if the county’s new biweekly coronavirus case totals fell below 97, students in kindergarten through second grade could go to school Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and students in grades 3-5 whose parents did not opt for 100 percent remote learning would have virtual classes three days a week and attend on Tuesday and Thursday. The model also called for students in particular upper grades to attend one entire week with their teachers and peers, and then the next week, all students within those grades would have online classes.
The board did not clarify how to adapt the Northern Door COVID-19 statistics to the administration’s recommendation.
The board voted 7-0 in favor of a phase-in plan for extracurricular activities based on the coronavirus statistics in the district, with students required to adhere to strict social-distancing protocols.
The board also voted 4-3 in favor of eventually allowing participation in high school sports, with limited high school boys basketball practice and conditioning possibly starting next week, and high school girls practices starting in two weeks. Principal Gereon Methner said Gibraltar will limit the number of players in the gym, keep locker rooms closed and close the gym for 30 minutes between practices to allow for cleaning and to prevent intermingling of teams.
During the meeting, Seyfer read dozens of comments from community members and parents who watched the meeting online. Many pleaded with the board to continue with remote learning rather than open for in-person attendance.