25 – COVID-19 Update – July 30 – Back-to-School Decision

Superintendent, Dean Hess, and instructional coach, Jason Schmidt, participated in a podcast outlining the decisions of the board of education regarding returning to school in the fall of 2020. Please click the play button below to hear the podcast.


Two videos were shared as part of the board of education meeting on July 29. The first video outlined how students might access live (synchronous) instruction from home. Please view the video below.


The second video provided a brief overview of what parents will experience when using the district’s new learning management system, Schoology. More information regarding how to access Schoology as a parent will be provided in the upcoming weeks.

 

24 – COVID-19 Update – July 30 – Acellus Fully Online Learning Opportunity

Program Information

The purpose of this fully online option (Acellus) is to provide families an alternative choice for educational programming.  The Acellus programming will be different from the virtual learning that students in the hybrid model (four days face to face/one day virtual) will experience.  Students learning through Acellus will receive a curriculum that is similarly aligned with state standards, but instructed in a different manner and in a different sequence than students in the face to face hybrid model recently approved by our Board of Education.  Acellus courses are generally self paced.  An Oconto Falls staff member will be checking in and will be available to support your child with their questions.     

If your child has health conditions and you have concerns about your child returning to school, please reach out to one of our school nurses, Lynette Donart (lynette.donart@of-ps.org) and/or Bobbi Jo Boomsma (bobbijo.boomsma@of-ps.org) who can provide you with more guidance specific to your child. We understand that some families are not planning to have their children return to school in our four day face to face hybrid model.  To support families interested in the Acellus (fully virtual) option and to assist with our planning needs, it is important that parents intending to have their students participate in our Acellus program to apply to the Fully Virtual School Option.  Click here to apply Virtual School Option Application.

If you are opting for your child(ren) for full Virtual School Option, please understand the following:

  • You are committing to full online learning for the entire grading period and are not able to attend school face to face or hybrid/blended model or move between learning models until the start of the next grading period.  (4K-5 – Trimester, 6-8 Quint, 9-12 Semester)
  • If the outbreak requires students in the face to face or hybrid model to move into virtual learning, online learning students will continue on their same online learning course.  There is no transition back to non-online learning until that grading period is complete.  
  • The District will ensure four core subjects (Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies) are taught in full online learning.  Elective classes are available, however, some specials or encore courses may not be available. 
  • To select this option, you would need to have adequate internet connectivity.  A device to utilize the coursework would be provided by the district.  

Attendance 

Success as a virtual student requires that you acknowledge the need for daily engagement within courses by maintaining structured pacing where assignments and assessments are completed each day. Regular communication with Virtual School Option teachers through email and/or phone calls is expected.  School Attendance rules will be followed and enforced. 

Home Learning Coach

It is important you identify someone to be the Home Learning Coach. The Home Learning Coach will be the primary person for helping the student through the process of online learning.  This person can be a parent, capable older sibling, grandparent, babysitter etc.  The Home Learning Coach’s role is to communicate with the student on a regular basis about school.  This role is especially important for the younger student(s).

Virtual School Learning Tips

  • Create a learning space for your child.
  • Make a consistent school schedule but be flexible.
  • Reduce distractions.
  • Schedule other activities such as exercise.
  • See which accessibility features help your child.
  • Communicate with your child’s teachers regularly.

Contact Information:    Danny Smith at danny.smith@of-ps.org  or (920)848-4467

23 – COVID-19 Update – July 30 – Fall Athletics

July 30, 2020

Good Morning!

As most of you know the WIAA has made a decision to change the start date to most fall sports.  Last night, July 29th, the Oconto Falls School Board decided to honor the change in start dates and gave us the ok to move forward with plans at the High School to start our season on the new dates.  Here are the new start dates.

Girls Golf – August 17
Boys and Girls Cross Country – August 17
Cheer – August 17 (tryouts are still scheduled for the week of August 3)
Dance – August 17
Volleyball – September 7 – this is Labor Day but we are still starting
Football – September 7  – this is Labor Day but we are still starting

The fall parent/athlete meeting that was scheduled for Monday, August 3rd has been cancelled.  We are still working on how a parent meeting can happen for each sport.  Those details have not been determined at this time.  All parents and athletes should be in communication with their fall coach.  

Attached is a video showing you how to check the status of your child’s online forms and athletic physical and alternate year cards.  Please watch the video and go into your parent access for Skyward and fill out the online forms for the 2020-2021 school year.  All these forms need to be filled out for your child to be eligible. 

As we progress through the next month we will be working on making changes to our sports season to do our best to prevent the spread of the virus.  Many things will change but keep in mind our goal is to keep your child safe while still offering them an opportunity to do something they love.  We will need your help and understanding during these difficult times and decisions.  Your child’s social, emotional and physical well being will be first and foremost in our mind as we progress through the upcoming months.    

Please feel free to call the school or email me if you have any questions or concerns.  

Jerry Moynihan
Athletic/Activities/Community Ed Director
Oconto Falls High School
210 N. Farm Road
Oconto Falls, Wisconsin, 54154
(920) 848-4467
(920) 848-4444 (fax)
jerome.moynihan@of-ps.org

22 – COVID-19 Update – July 30 – Governor Evers Executive Order #82 – Face Coverings

On Thursday, July 30, Governor Evers released Executive Order 82, which declared a public health emergency to combat the spread of COVID-19. Emergency Order #1 outlined the following related to face coverings in the state of Wisconsin:

Every individual, age five and older, in Wisconsin shall wear a face covering if both of the following apply:

  1. The individual is indoors or in an enclosed space, other than at a private residence; and;
  2. Another person or persons who are not members of individual’s household or living unit are present in the same room or enclosed space.

Face coverings are strongly recommended in all other settings, including outdoors when it is not possible to maintain physical distancing. 

Please view the following documents for more information regarding this executive order. 

  1. Executive Order #82
  2. Emergency Order #1

21 – COVID-19 Update – July 22 – Back-to-School Communication

July 22, 2020

Oconto Falls Public Schools Parents and Guardians, 

I am writing to inform you that the Oconto Falls Public Schools Board of Education considered a recommendation on Monday, July 20, regarding the reopening of schools for the 2020-2021 school year.  To begin the meeting the Board listened to more than sixty five public comments from parents, students, and community members regarding their perspective relative to the reopening of our schools.  The Board then considered information that was presented to them regarding multiple different instructional models that ranged from fully face-to-face, blended hybrid models that included both face-to-face and virtual instruction, as well as a fully virtual option.  Three different priorities were consistently discussed which included our focus on safety for students and staff, the desire to educate our students in as much of a face-to-face model as we believe is prudent given our circumstance, as well as our focus on how these decisions affect our families.  Throughout the conversation mitigation of risk regarding the spread of COVID-19 was discussed at length and included potential changes to how we conduct day-to-day operations in our schools, the wearing of face coverings as a way to reduce risk, and the challenge of physically distancing students while transporting them on our school buses.  Below are a few examples of changes that were discussed:

Face Coverings

As part of the presentation it was recommended to the Board that both staff and students be required to wear masks in an effort to reduce the risk level and better enable us to provide face-to-face learning in the fall.  It was shared that this is especially important in situations where we are unable to socially distance our students such as on our buses, in cafeterias, hallways and many classroom settings.  It was also discussed that if the decision of the Board is to come back to school in a more face-to-face setting, this will result in a lesser capability to socially distance; thus, wearing a mask will be even more important as an action to mitigate the risk level for students and staff.

Transportation

As part of the transportation discussion, Board members were made aware of the high number of students that ride our buses every day (more than 80% ridership).  This often results in 50-60 students per bus which does not allow us to physically distance students.  Parents that are able and willing to transport your child who normally would ride a bus, please call our transportation department at 920-848-4460.  It was further discussed that another option for the Board to consider, if they feel the need to further reduce the number of students on the bus, would be to stop transportation services for students that live within two miles of their school.  This action would reduce the number of students riding the bus by approximately 25%.  To a lesser extent the Board could consider stopping transportation services for students that live within one mile of the school as a potential alternative.  The result of this action would be a reduction of approximately 10%.  Either of these actions would help alleviate the congestion on the bus and better enable distancing students.  However, we also recognize that this action would have a negative impact on those families directly affected by the change in service.  As part of this discussion the point was made that if we implement a mask requirement it would help mitigate the risk of viral spread on the bus and provide greater latitude to not initially implement a change in service for students living within the two-mile radius of their school.

Educational Models 

The board was presented with information relative to the benefits and drawbacks related to multiple different educational models.  It is important to note that families that desire to have their children involved in fully virtual education will be provided with a virtual option.  Fully virtual students will be offered an option new to Oconto Falls called Acellus. More information is provided below.  This link will provide you with a short video as well as other information that we hope you will find informative.  

When reviewing the different educational models (fully face-to-face, hybrid, and fully virtual), the discussion focused on our priorities of safety, educational capacity, and how the models would potentially impact families.  The proposal from our administrative team was for the board to consider a hybrid model that involved elementary students (4K-5) attending school face-to-face four days each week (M, T, Th, F) and learning from home each Wednesday.  Secondary students (6-12) would be divided into two cohorts with approximately half of the students attending school face-to-face two days each week and then accessing their education virtually three days each week.    

We Will Be Offering a New Virtual Option  

For parents interested in having their student/s attend school online, the Oconto Falls Virtual Program offers a great option.  Oconto Falls School District has recently partnered with Acellus to bring high-quality online education to Oconto Falls.  Acellus uses video-based lessons with cutting-edge technology to accelerate learning, elevate standardized test scores, and to prepare students to transition into careers and college.  The program is available to students entering kindergarten through 12th grade.  

Students will have access to a list of curriculum offerings to meet their needs, with the help of an Oconto Falls educator.  Stayed tuned for more information coming shortly.  

Parents and students that are interested may contact Danny Smith at danny.smith@of-ps.org.

CLICK HERE for more information about Acellus

The Board Has Not Made a Decision 

We anticipated that our board members would need time to reflect on the information presented to them which is why we scheduled a special board meeting for July 29, at 6:00 p.m.  We anticipate that our board will have further dialogue at this meeting regarding a back-to-school plan and may take action relative to identifying an educational model to begin the year.  I anticipate that they will also be discussing the topics of face coverings and transportation given the importance of these issues relative to our programming and our ability to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Sincerely,

Dean R. Hess

Superintendent of Schools

20 – COVID-19 Update – July 1 – Back-to-School Planning

July 1, 2020

Parents and Guardians,  

We Appreciate Your Feedback

Over the past four weeks we’ve been involved in many different activities related to the end of the 2019-2020 school year and planning for the 2020-2021 school year.  One of these activities includes disseminating community surveys and reviewing survey feedback  in order to reflect on lessons learned during the COVID-19 school closure.  This information, together with feedback from our staff, has enabled us to better plan and provide focused professional development as we prepare for the future.  

Back to School Planning

Back-to-school planning has been and continues to be our primary focus, and our efforts are guided by the Education Forward document developed by the Department of Public Instruction. The attached document reveals the massive level of planning in which we are involved.  It is our goal to create a multifaceted educational plan that effectively meets the learning needs of our students while providing the flexibility to modify operations as needed in response to changing levels of risk.  As we conduct our planning, we recognize that each instructional environment has positives as well as challenges associated with them.  In the best case scenario, we will be able to reopen our schools in the fall in a more traditional, face-to-face learning environment.  With that stated, we will plan for this option as well as both a physically-distanced/hybrid model and a virtual model to ensure that we are prepared to modify operations to mitigate the ever-changing level of risks posed by COVID-19. 

To improve our planning, we have also enlisted the help of parents, staff, students, and community members as part of a Back-to-School Advisory Committee.  We are sharing information with the members of this group and listening to their perspectives on key topics such as instructional models (face-to-face, physically-distance/hybrid, and virtual), social distancing/risk Mitigation, transportation, and personal protective equipment (PPE) just to name a few.  The role of this committee is to work collaboratively to discuss the challenges that we face, provide feedback, and brainstorm ideas in our efforts to address these difficult realities.

Board Meeting to Discuss Our Back to School Plan

On July 20, 2020, we will be briefing our board of education as to a potential back-to-school plan.  It will include information relative to operational changes needed to support the plan as well as what we, the district leadership team, believe are the benefits and drawbacks to the different courses of action.  I anticipate that this discussion will include topics such as the different instructional models that we are considering for the fall, transportation of students, ways that we can mitigate risks, social distancing, personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, and other key areas in the Education Forward document. 

As part of our commitment to excellence, we are focused on the safety of our students and staff while planning for how we can conduct educational programming that meets or exceeds the needs of our students in this ever-changing environment.  We will continue to review information from the CDC, state, and Oconto County Health Department, along with the Education Forward recommendations from the DPI, to guide us in our work.

As we move through this planning process, we will continue to provide you with updates which will be posted on our school district website.

We are in this together, and together we are stronger.

Dean R. Hess

Superintendent

Oconto Falls Public Schools

17 – COVID-19 Update – May 14 – School Closure – WI Supreme Court Decision

Dear Families and Staff,

You’ve most likely heard in the news that the “Safer at Home” order has been overturned by the State Supreme Court. We have received feedback that in a footnote to this 161 page decision, school closures will remain in place. Therefore, we believe that public and private schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year (June 30, 2020), for pupil instruction and extracurricular activities.

As this situation continues to develop we will provide you with updates in as timely of a manner as possible.

Dean R. Hess
Superintendent of Schools
Oconto Falls Public Schools

16 – COVID-19 Update – May 11 – Honoring the Class of 2020

Jake Beschta, the principal of Oconto Falls High School, and Dr. Dean Hess, Superintendent of Schools, join the podcast this week to talk about how we are honoring the class of 2020.

If you have information you would like the Board of Education to consider regarding the Class of 2020, please feel free to fill out the form below prior to noon on May 11, 2020. Thank you!