August 23, 2021
Dear Parents and Guardians of Onalaska Students:
First off, I want to thank all of you for the great work you all did during the 2020-21 school year. We were able to bring your children back to face-to-face learning early and were able to keep our doors open for the whole year. Because of this, your children were able to access their teacher(s) every day, as well as their peers. Was it perfect, no, but it sure beat distance learning. Our staff did a fantastic job of working with your children throughout the school year, and for that, we all are grateful. We have an outstanding staff of teachers and support staff that made all of this work.
So now we come to the 2021-22 school year. I understand the total frustration that most of you have about the mandates issued for opening our schools. I am not sure there is one person in our district or community that likes wearing masks. However, in order to have face-to-face instruction every day, we have to do this, both students and staff. The great news is that students only have to wear masks while on the bus and while indoors. They do not have to wear masks while outdoors this year, which is a huge relief.
While many of you will choose to home-school your child or look for alternative learning opportunities, I understand. The only thing I do want you to be aware of is to make sure you get registered correctly so this does not become a truancy issue for you and your children. All children have to be enrolled in some form of school. The juvenile department that deals with truancy issues will check to make sure all students are enrolled in some form of education. What form of education is up to you.
When school begins on August 31st, all students are required to wear masks when getting on and riding the bus and when they enter the school building. Masks will be available both on the buses and at the school for those who need them. “Gator”, the pull-up cloth used last year, will not be allowed this year unless it is double-layered. Plus, those get really hot for students to wear. Masks, just like before, have to cover the nose and mouth. Masks can come off while eating, drinking, or when outside. We will do our best to get students outdoors as much as possible while the weather is still good.
We are not requiring temperature taking or attestations this year. If your child is ill or has a fever, please keep them at home. We are so short on space this year that we do not have much of an “isolation” room to house our students who are ill. You will be called, per our normal routines, if your child gets ill while at school and asked to come and pick them up.
Elementary breakfast and lunch will be eaten in classrooms again. Middle and High School students will eat in their respective cafeterias. These schools have two lunches, which helps with spacing.
The question has come up about parent/guardian volunteers in classrooms. We are allowing one parent/guardian to volunteer in each classroom after October 18th. All health protocols must be in place, including the wearing of masks and proof of vaccination or exemption. Building principals will provide more information as the year begins.
Now for the other “burning” question… what are you going to do if my child comes to school and refuses to wear a mask? Students will not be allowed on the bus without a mask. They will be offered one, but cannot ride without one. Students who drive or are dropped off will be offered a mask before entering the school if they need one. If they refuse, it is considered defiance and will result in possible disciplinary action based on Board policy 3241 and 3241P. Consequences are also listed in each school’s handbook. This can all be avoided if staff and students follow the mandate that is allowing our students to come back to school by wearing masks. We want our teachers to teach and our students to learn, and not be hampered by having to take care of mask issues, which can interrupt the learning environment.
This has not been easy for anyone, including our school staff. They have done their best to accommodate students, provide instruction and support, give them a safe place to be, and make sure they are getting nutritional support at breakfast and lunch. I am very proud of our staff and what they have done for the students of Onalaska. They have met the challenges placed before them and provided for your children. Now we all face another challenge this year. I expect our staff will provide the same care and concern for your child as they have in the past.
Our hope is to continue serving the students, families, and community of Onalaska. School is the hub of most communities. We take pride in the work we do and hold high expectations for ourselves as well as the students we serve. I look forward to having you join us as we embark on another school year.