Eau Claire Schools Will Go 100% Virtual After Thanksgiving
virus has caused teacher, staff shortage, district says
Following the lead of several other school districts and universities in the region, the Eau Claire Area School District announced Friday evening that it would switch to a 100% virtual learning for all students, beginning Monday, Nov. 30.
The switch will remain in place until at least Tuesday, Dec. 8, with Thursday, Dec. 10, the first day that any students would return to in-person education. However, school district and public health officials will decide by Tuesday, Dec. 1, whether students will remain studying virtually or return to the current hybrid model.
“The District made this decision due to a current shortage of available teachers and staff, as viral cases and quarantines are significantly affecting teacher and staff absences,” a press release stated. “The District also expects more staff absences in the near future as a result of the newly available community antigen testing site at Memorial High School.”
The district said that the decision was made to provide families with a two-week notice to allow them to make child-care arrangements. The hybrid instructional model - under which most district students attend in-person classes two days a week - will continue through next Friday, Nov. 20. The follow week no classes are scheduled because of parent-teacher conferences and the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Although disease transmission has not occurred in our schools, the community surge of the virus and the increasing number of positive and quarantined staff require us to transition to our 100% virtual instructional model until we can safely staff our schools.”
Eau Claire School District Superintendent
“I’m extremely proud of our staff and students for their safety efforts and their ability to maintain the consistency of our instructional model to this point,” ECASD Superintendent Michael Johnson said. “Although disease transmission has not occurred in our schools, the community surge of the virus and the increasing number of positive and quarantined staff require us to transition to our 100% virtual instructional model until we can safely staff our schools.”
As of Friday, there had been 5,542 diagnosed COVID-19 cases in Eau Claire County since the pandemic began, a quarter of which were still considered active. Earlier this week, Mayo Clinic Health System hospitals in the region said the pandemic had driven them to 100% capacity, and subsequently UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, and UW-River Falls said they would be switching to entirely online instruction after Thanksgiving.
The Chippewa school district switched to entirely online learning as of Nov. 4, and the Menomonie district will do the same beginning Monday, Nov. 16. Both of those district will remain in virtual mode until Nov. 30 at the earliest.
The following message was sent to Eau Claire school district families Friday evening:
Dear ECASD Staff and Families,
Over the past few weeks, school and district administration has been closely monitoring COVID-19 data and its impact on our schools and community. In recent days, and more currently illustrated in Governor Evers’ announcement this week, the number of cases has continued to increase dramatically in our state and region.
While student COVID cases and quarantines across the school district are well below our internal thresholds, our staff absences due to the virus are significantly affecting our ability to sustain our blended instructional model. School staff and administration have worked creatively and tirelessly to substitute for colleagues. We have been leveraging our District Office personnel to assist in schools, as well.
We expect additional staff absences in the future because of the newly available community antigen testing site at Memorial High School. This increase in staff absences will soon require a shift to our 100% virtual instructional model. We must be flexible and proactive in our approach to this transition so student learning may continue.
As a result of these circumstances, we must make a short-term change in our instructional model from blended to 100% virtual starting Monday, November 30, 2020. This transition will last through at least Tuesday, December 8, 2020, for all District students.
With the timing of this announcement, we hope to give families a two-week notice to arrange for childcare and other needs. We know this is disappointing news. However, the health, safety, and well-being of our school community remains our top priority. We are aligned with expert health guidance to ensure we are doing everything we can to minimize risk and ensure the learning process can continue.
ECASD will continue to examine and monitor multiple community and school factors and collaborate with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department and other medical experts. We will then determine an extension or adjustment to this short-term instructional model change by Tuesday, December 1. However, it is quite possible that the 100% virtual instructional model for all ECASD students may continue beyond December 8.
Below is how our District schedule will look over the next few weeks:
Monday, November 16 – Friday, November 20
Current blended instructional model continues. Principals communicate details of the blended instructional model transition to 100% virtual instructional model.
Monday, November 23
(No School) Family/Teacher Conferences (all levels – held virtually)
Tuesday, November 24 - Friday, November 27
(No School) Thanksgiving Break
Monday, November 30 - Tuesday, December 8
100% virtual instructional model for students in grades PK-12
Tuesday, December 1
Decision made to resume 100% virtual instructional model or reinstate blended instructional model.
Thursday, December 10
Earliest date possible to return to blended instructional model.
It is extremely important to note that continued increases in staff or student cases may lead to additional instructional model changes in the future. Our staff desires to provide the best and most consistent educational experience, regardless of the model, and we need your help to take extreme care with any future travel or gatherings. Please continue to wash your hands and wear your mask to further assist us in returning to our blended instructional model as soon as possible.
Schools are reflections of the community. Our ECASD schools have been safe places thus far thanks to the efforts of our students and staff. District and school-level administration will follow up with more details on this transition to our 100% virtual instructional model in the coming days.
Thank you so much for your patience and support as we navigate our way through the challenges of the pandemic.
Mike Johnson, ECASD Superintendent
Dr. Tim Nordin, ECASD School Board President