School Reopening: Sturgeon Bay to Open for In-Person Instruction

Sturgeon Bay School District

Current enrollment: 1,200 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: Consensus came July 27 among school board members that masks/facial coverings should be required for all students and staff, even before Gov. Tony Evers’ mask mandate, which went into effect Aug. 1. 

Members of the board’s work group planned to meet Aug. 5 to draft the official policy to align with legal guidance. The school board also discussed adding a special board meeting Aug. 12, holding its regularly scheduled Aug. 19 meeting, and adding another special board meeting Aug. 26. 

“How can we reopen school safely during a pandemic? Or perhaps we should ask the following instead: How can we not reopen?” 

Source: PowerPoint presentation, Sturgeon Bay School District 

As with all school districts, planning is top of mind these days for Dan Tjernagel, superintendent of the Sturgeon Bay School District. Also as with all districts, Door County’s largest is trying to navigate the uncharted waters of a school opening in the age of COVID-19. 

“We’re doing our best to be ready, even with all the uncertainty,” he said. “I believe it’s our obligation as a public school system to make preparations to be ready to open in person, knowing that may or may not be what happens. We have to make plans accordingly, knowing things could change in a month.”

If the district had to pivot to a 100 percent remote school by September, the model would present more challenges for students, Tjernagel said. When students were relocated to the virtual classroom this spring, students and teachers had already had six months together. That experience taught students what to expect from their grade level and teachers. To start a student in a new grade when the teacher, classmates, learning tools and academic material are all new introduces a host of new challenges. Still, that will be the choice for some students and could also happen again sooner rather than later for the whole school, should the situation require it.

“We know we have to be ready for that,” Tjernagel said.  

He said administrators estimated as of last week that roughly 10-15 percent of the student body will opt for virtual instruction. He anticipated that his district’s in-person versus virtual instruction ratio will be similar to that of the Southern Door School District.


The range of options include – on one end of the spectrum – in-person school. 

“We know folks expect schools to reopen,” Tjernagel said. 

The opposite end looks like districts did everywhere when they finished last spring: at home, using 100 percent virtual instruction. In between will be another range of options that’s deployed perhaps not on a schoolwide level, but class by class or grade by grade, depending on in-person enrollment figures or when symptoms or positive COVID-19 test cases present themselves. 

The virtual instruction option will be an extension of the classroom. Teachers will broadcast lessons from the classroom so that in-house students can meet simultaneously with students learning virtually. 

Wellness measures

Staff, students and parents will be asked to self-screen and/or to screen their child for symptoms before going to school. To promote social distancing, class sizes will be as small as possible, and desks will be moved as far apart as possible. Masks or facial coverings will be required for all students and staff, with exceptions for certain individuals for whom it would be a health or safety issue to wear one. 

Outside doors and windows will be closed because the district’s building HVAC systems will do a better job of ventilating. Hand sanitizer will be available in every room and in the hallways in automatic dispensers. Lockers will not be used to avoid creating areas of congregation. Book bags will be encouraged instead. 

Sprays, wipes and hand sanitizers will be available in all classrooms. Teachers and students will clean and sanitize surfaces after use; bathrooms will be cleaned once and sanitized twice a day; and every room in every building will be cleaned and sanitized after 5:30 pm each day. End-of-school releases will be staggered rather than simultaneous.

The district approved a $115,000 investment in personal protective equipment using federal dollars. The majority of that ($93,645) will go toward purchasing polycarbonate dividers for table tops and desks being manufactured by Key Industrial Plastics in Sturgeon Bay. The remainder will be used to purchase face coverings for students and staff.  


Transportation plans haven’t been completely decided, but the district may look at monitoring to ensure that masks are worn and social distancing is followed while students are transported to and from school. 

Nutrition/food programs

Protocols for food delivery will vary based on the school building. In general, food will either be of the grab-and-go variety to eat in the classroom, such as for breakfast; or will be delivered by kitchen staff to classrooms, such as with lunches. Students may also take their own lunches and their own water bottles. Drinking faucets will be covered and unavailable for use.

COVID-19 cases and school closures

The district will work with Door County Public Health to determine whether a school closure will be needed for health and safety reasons. The school will not be closed if a student tests positive, but the district is preparing for the possibility of short-term or long-term closures that could affect one or more of its school campuses. Interruptions are also anticipated – for one student, several students, staff members or one of the school campuses. Students who become ill during the day will be isolated until a family member is able to take the student home.