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More students staying home from high schools because of coronavirus
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More students staying home from high schools because of coronavirus

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WALWORTH — Both Big Foot High School and Williams Bay High School are reporting more students selecting at-home schooling over traditional in-person instruction, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread.

Big Foot district administrator Doug Parker said 23 students so far in this school year have changed from the in-person classroom instruction to the virtual learning option that allows them to take classes from home.

At the beginning of the school year, Big Foot High School reported that 31 out of the school’s 473 students had opted to attend school remotely. That has since increased to 53 students learning remotely.

To combat the spread of coronavirus, Big Foot allows students to attend classes in person, participate from home, or develop a hybrid plan of the two. The school also allows students to adjust their choices depending on their individual needs.

Williams Bay school officials also are reporting an increase in the number of high school and middle school students switching over to virtual learning options from home.

While the exact number of Williams Bay students was not available, school district administrator Bill White said more middle and high school students are selecting online learning while the trend among elementary students is just the opposite — more are opting to attend school in person.

He said more elementary students are feeling comfortable about appearing in person for classes.

White also said different virtual learning options are available to those in middle and high school. A live-stream of in-person classrooms, which offers nearly the same experience to both in-person and virtual students, is only available in the middle and high school.

“It’s a different situation than the elementary,” he said.

Parker said students at Big Foot have switched learning models for a variety of reasons, including fear of the coronavirus for some. Some are worried about bringing the virus home to family members in vulnerable populations.

Others believe it is easier to work at home than in-person, Parker said, and still others simply want to avoid attending school in person.

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He added that meetings will be arranged with students who are struggling to meet expectations, to discuss issues and tailor a new education plan best suited for them.

Despite the increase in virtual learning participants, Big Foot has had relatively few cases of coronavirus confirmed on campus.

So far the school has confirmed three cases of COVID-19 among students or staff in the school building, and have quarantined 11 students or staff.

Parker added that not all of the quarantines are the result of confirmed virus cases in the school; some are from external cases.

“We are very satisfied with what we’re doing now,” Parker said.

The district administrator said in addition to face masks and other precautions, the size of the 250,000-square-foot high school may be helping to control the contagious upper respiratory infection. Students and staff are able to easily social distance in every class, reducing personal contact and limiting the number of students who need to be quarantined when an infection is confirmed.

“The schools that are shutting down are having contact-tracing problems,” he said. “They’re not able to social distance, so once there is a positive case, they’re sending 10, 20, 30 kids home, because they’ve been in close contact.”

White said while more Williams Bay middle and high school students are choosing at-home learning, he believes some students may change their minds later and return to the classrooms.

“I don’t think [virtual learning] is too hard or too easy or anything like that,” he said. “It’s if you can self-pace and be responsible.”

The Williams Bay school district has reported one confirmed case of coronavirus this school year, and did not require any close-contact quarantine of other students as a result of the case.

“We believe what we’re doing is working,” White said.

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