Our COVID-19 Story

Our COVID-19 Story
Posted on 06/01/2020
Lunch LadiesSince first learning of the possible pandemic in late February, the District has been working around the clock, often in collaboration with colleagues from the five largest school districts, CESA 7, the Department of Public Instruction, and various state associations - WASDA, WASB and AWSA, to ensure that we had the best resources, and most up-to-date information. The District has been seeking and receiving guidance from both the state and local department of health, the Centers for Disease Control and our local medical community to ensure that our decisions regarding program delivery ensure the safety and well being of students, staff, families, and our community.  

When the District began planning in anticipation of a possible school closure in late February, because we were a school district that had invested and leveraged resources to ensure that all of our students had access to devices, we were able to plan forward accordingly. The one-to-one device program at the secondary level allowed students to take Chromebooks home at spring break, and for those who did not, the District developed a plan to deploy the remaining Chromebooks. While the Chromebooks have been vital in providing virtual learning opportunities, the lack of access to WiFi, for both students and educators, has created more inequities. Recognizing that many of our students do not have internet access at home, we have been providing students for many years a WiFi filtered hotspot called a Kajeet. This has proven to work well for some students; however, it does not address limited broadband issues, which makes it difficult for students to participate in all virtual opportunities. 

The elementary continuity of learning at home was structured quite differently for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the District wanted to be sure that during the school closure, elementary students were afforded similar learning opportunities and programming that they were experiencing in the classroom. Students were given materials prior to leaving for spring break on March 13th, the same day the Governor ordered schools closed, and since that time have received ongoing deliveries of learning materials, including Scholastic books. More than 100,000 Scholastic books have been delivered to individual elementary students, that were selected according to the student’s reading level (as identified by the teacher), to be culturally responsive, and in Spanish for children enrolled in the bilingual program.

Second, while the District has devices for every elementary student, we currently do not have the capacity to ensure internet and broadband access at home. We anticipate that we will need thousands of additional WiFi hotspots (we currently have 1,000) to go fully virtual when needed and thus have 635 WiFi hotspots on order. The District has also been working in partnership with a local vendor and the Department of Public Instruction to purchase routers for home use to address the Broadband issues as well as looking to determine if and how we can purchase WiFi services for students at home. We recognize that the glaring ongoing inequities to access WiFi are not only impacting the children and families in Green Bay, but many across the entire state. Over the years, we have taken a number of steps to try and address the digital divide including writing and submitting a Race to the Top grant for WiFi in Brown County; and working in partnership at a local level as well as state and federal level to address access and broadband concerns -- none of which have paid the dividends that have resulted in all District students being able to connect to our schools virtually.

In addition to universal programming for all students in grades 4K-12, the District also designed and is implementing special programming to ensure a continuum of services, support and learning for our students receiving special education services, English Language services, Head Start programming, tiered interventions and those receiving McKinney-Vento services.  

As noted, staff has been working tirelessly since we learned of the possible pandemic in late February. They have done an extraordinary job being flexible, responsive, empathetic and compassionate as they work to address the individual needs of their students and families. Planning and professional development is ongoing for all staff as we hold tight to the key principles of our continuity of learning framework that includes: ensuring connectivity with students, families and each other;  self-reflection to determine what is and isn’t working, as well as what is needed; planning forward in collaboration with their teams; and pausing and resetting as information, opportunities, and needs continue to change.  

Food service workers have done an extraordinary job, providing more than 370,000 meals to-date for children, serving at 14 different sites come rain or shine during the school week. In addition, the community outreach team applied for and received grants of approximately $100,000 to work with community partners to provide meals to families on the weekends, and most recently received grant funding to provide students with basic school supplies at home. Social workers, family engagement coordinators, counselors, translators and support staff have gone above and beyond to ensure that all students at home are safe and well.

As the District plans for the summer and fall, we have taken the lessons we’ve learned and are creating a fluid educational ecosystem that will be responsive to the individual learning as well as social and emotional needs of our students, while taking into account the current reality as we fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. 
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