School Reopening: Southern Door Plans for In-Person Return

Southern Door School District

Current enrollment: 1,029 students

What it’s doing: In-person instruction five days per week with a remote/virtual learning option. School will begin Tuesday, Sept. 1.

What’s next: The school board will meet Aug. 10 and 17. The Aug. 10 special board meeting will focus on the administrative team sharing more details about the Fly Like an Eagle Re-entry Plan as planning for physical health, academics and mental health continue. 

The board will consider a “health, safety and efficient operation of school” resolution during that meeting to define what the district intends to do if the governor’s order and/or the Door County Public Health mask advisory are no longer in place once school starts.

Southern Door School District officially published its Fly Like an Eagle Re-entry Plan a couple of weeks ago. Masks were going to be “highly recommended” during transitions, large group gatherings and when social distancing could not be achieved. Gov. Evers’ mask mandate requiring masks for everyone who is inside caused the district to switch gears. 

“We are currently following the governor’s order,” said Superintendent Patti Vickman.

As with other school districts and society in general, Vickman has heard more about the masking requirement than any of the other re-entry guidelines. Some parents say they won’t send their child to school if masks are required; others say they won’t send their child to school if masks are not required. 

“We’re hearing so much from both sides,” Vickman said.

Mask wearing may be polarized, but the majority of parents in the Southern Door School District were clear that they wanted a return to the classroom, according to the results of a parent survey the school district received by June 29.

“Ninety percent of the parents wanted in-person school,” Vickman said.

Based on that survey, Vickman anticipated that between 85 and 90 percent of the student population would start the school year within the classroom.

Knowing how many students will be learning at the school versus remotely helps the district to plan, but parents won’t be locked in to a decision. If they learn that an initial choice of in-person or virtual learning doesn’t work for them, they can switch during the school year.


“We plan to offer an at-home, remote-learning experience for any families that are not comfortable sending their children on-site this fall, and we are planning on offering as close to a normal school experience as we can in our school buildings for those families that want to accept that we will try to make the experience as safe as reasonably possible,” Vickman said.

The virtual-learning structure will depend on enrollment figures for that option as well as individual situations. If a student begins in person but then moves to a virtual model, she or he will be able to join the classroom via webcam. If a large number of students choose virtual learning to start, a teacher may be assigned to conduct a virtual-only class. 

The district is working with Rural Virtual Academy (RVA) on individualized academic plans for remote learners. RVA is a fully accredited, online Wisconsin public charter school offering custom-tailored education programs and materials.

Students who are absent because of COVID-19 symptoms or quarantine requirements will have remote access to the in-person instruction, and school staff will do occasional check-ins with all families that choose remote learning.


Masks will be required for everyone, and buses will be deep-cleaned after each route. The first seat behind the bus driver will remain empty whenever possible, and windows will be open if the weather allows. Only family members will be allowed to sit with each other. There will be one pickup/drop-off point per parent. Parking fees for high school students will be waived to encourage family transportation.


The district will identify internet viability for each student’s household through questions added to the registration process. Devices will be provided for all students, as will Wi-Fi hotspots for remote learners who need access. Chromebooks will be provided to all 4K-12 students.

Technology will be increased to support in-class and remote learning environments, with technical support staff available for staff, students and parents. This includes webcam/microphone/USB extenders for classrooms so that students can “remote in” temporarily because of illness or quarantine. The district is also looking at ways in which technology can assist masked, socially distanced in-class teachers, such as equipping them with microphones to amplify their voice. 

Wellness measures

All students and staff will be checked for symptoms before entering the school. Students or staff who exhibit symptoms will be isolated, sent home and asked to quarantine until a negative test result is received. 

“So I feel like we’re going to have a lot of kids in and out,” Vickman said.

Masks will be required for all students and staff, according to Gov. Evers’ mask mandate. Exceptions will be made for individuals as outlined in that order. The district will deep-clean and sanitize all areas daily, and it will emphasize frequent handwashing and physical distance when possible. Plexiglas/acrylic barriers will be installed in high-risk areas such as offices, libraries and where multiple students sit at tables and learning areas.

Traffic flow will be directed in hallways, playgrounds, libraries, cafeteria areas and through designated entry and exit doors. Outdoor spaces will be used when possible and weather permitting.

As much as is practicable, students will be provided with individual rather than shared sets of learning materials. In-person class sizes will be kept small. If they’re large, they’ll be split in two. 

“There won’t be any classes of 30 students,” for example, Vickman said. 

Nutrition/food programs

More tables, larger spaces between them, and staggered lunch times will help to create social distancing. Prepackaged condiments and supplies will be provided, and self-serving stations will be eliminated. Plexiglas/acrylic barriers will be installed at serving lines. Multimeal packs will be provided to remote learners. High school à la carte items will be served behind the counter, and no cash will be exchanged. Funds for à la carte must be deposited in advance in the student’s food-service account.

School closure

The district will work with Door County Public Health to determine whether a school closure will be needed for health and safety reasons. If the school is closed, the district will convert to remote learning with instruction provided during the regular school day using Google Classroom.