ARISE, the Janesville School District’s virtual school, is bracing for what could be a 1,000% increase in enrollment this fall.
Hundreds of parents concerned about COVID-19 are expected to enroll their children in virtual school rather than have them return to classrooms.
Superintendent Steve Pophal said ARISE could have close to 2,000 students this fall, up from enrollment this spring of 350 students—150 full-time and 200 part-time.
The district’s parent survey indicates an even bigger increase.
Under the plan, parents will be able to choose whether they want their children to learn in person or virtually. Students in middle and high school can also choose a combination of the two.
About 10% of parents said they preferred fully virtual education this fall, and another 35% indicated they wanted a mix of in-person and virtual learning. That would mean about 4,500 students participating at ARISE this fall.
“I’m excited because I think this is an incredible opportunity,” ARISE Principal David Parr said. “I think the future is coming, and it’s now been forced upon us.
“The reality is that once you leave high school, half of all college classes are online. When you go to work, a lot of that is online. This is forcing schools to look at how people learn in the real world. A lot of the things we learn, we do it online. We’re here helping students learn that right now, and we look forward to making the Janesville School District a better place for our students,” Parr said.
Parents have until Aug. 1 to decide how to enroll their children this fall.
Janesville also is expecting more students from outside the district to choose ARISE.
This spring, ARISE had 30 full-time students from outside the Janesville School District. As of Wednesday, it already had 60 students from outside the district registered for this fall, and more families were completing paperwork.
There is no tuition for Wisconsin families to enroll at ARISE.
ARISE hires teachers to fit enrollment. This spring, 12 teachers filled the equivalent of seven full-time positions.
This fall, the district would add close to 50 new part-time teachers to accommodate 2,000 students, Parr said. More teachers would be needed if enrollment is higher.
The district has reached out to retired teachers, substitute teachers and teachers at other Janesville schools who don’t have full schedules to help at ARISE.
“Teaching online is not like teaching in a classroom. We have a three-day training in place for those teachers and will give instructional videos. We will also have daily check-ins so teachers can call in with questions and get them answered as they come up,” Parr said.
The virtual school has long used retired teachers as part-time educators, but more likely will be needed this fall, Parr said.
Per state statutes, recently retired teachers can teach only 60% of full-time. Teachers also would need specific teaching certifications and online training.
Those who typically teach in person but have medical issues could be allowed instead to teach at ARISE as a COVID-19 precaution.
On a typical day at ARISE, students log in and receive a to-do list for the day. Each student has about seven classes each day, which equates to three to five hours of work. With breaks and lunch, it equates to an eight-hour day, Parr said.
Students have assignments in English each Tuesday and social studies each Thursday. Civics and math classes have assignments every day. Other classes are mixed throughout the week.
Difficult lessons in core classes such as algebra might be given twice to allow for better understanding.
All assignments must be turned in, and low quality work must be redone. Midterm exams offer checkpoints for students and teachers to allow them to discuss how each student can succeed in an online learning environment, Parr said.
Exams are proctored, and students must pass the final exams to pass classes.
The school’s space at Franklin Middle School will not be available to students for extra help this year, but teachers will have designated times when they are online and available for additional help. A small group of support staff will be on-site at Franklin to answer phones and provide in-house assistance, Parr said.
Virtually all members of Rock County’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council agree that more data can aid efforts to reduce racial disparities.
But some officials warned against getting stuck in an endless cycle of always looking for more numbers to confirm what has been studied and understood more broadly: There are racial disparities within the criminal justice system.
Black kids at Janesville schools have been cited, arrested and referred to juvenile authorities at a rate that is more than seven times higher than the rates for other races, a Gazette data analysis shows.
Continuing efforts to find more data, those officials said at a council meeting Thursday, could accompany more tangible actions to address systemic racism in Rock County.
“If you look at every decision point in the criminal justice system, I think you will find disparity exists,” said Ashley Morse, a local public defense attorney.
“If you are serious about making change in this county, if that’s the goal, you should assume that the disparity exists at your decision point and think about what you can do to change that,” she said.
Discussion on the topic started when Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore wanted to make a point about data the group studied earlier this year: disorderly conduct arrests (with domestic violence cases, which require arrests, removed).
The council chose that kind of arrest to study because officers have more discretion in that area.
The data from 2018 showed disparities by race. In Janesville, black people accounted for 26.8% of those arrests. In 2019, black people were about 2% of Janesville’s population.
Local leaders and other residents reflect on what it might take to fix the racism that has held the nation--and Rock County--from being all it could be.
But Moore said when he examined other offenses that required less discretion—battery, robbery, recklessly endangering safety and homicide—the disparities were roughly the same in 2018.
“I pondered this study. And while it’s something we certainly need to consider, I don’t know that it is the bellwether proof of bias that at least some think that it is,” he said.
Janesville’s police chief said it would be a “rush to judgment” to say arrests should parallel census data because that’s not how “crime presents itself.” For example, he said police arrest more men than women and more young adults than older.
And because the root causes of racial disparities run deep, he said that means they have an “awful lot of work to do.”
“Because it’s deeper than just discretionary police arrests,” Moore said. “I think that we probably need to look deeper into poverty and parenting and some of these other issues that I think we’ll find probably cause some of these things.”
Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski said, “These issues don’t start with the police.”
“The police are the end result of many issues that have happened to a lot of these folks before we have arrest contact,” he said. “Socioeconomic issues, housing issues, educational issues.”
In response to a follow-up question from Morse, the public defender, Zibolski said there is racial bias throughout society—including in police departments. But like Janesville’s police chief, he cautioned against expecting the crime data to match demographic data.
Marc Perry, executive director of Community Action of Rock and Walworth Counties, said he does not disagree that aspects outside the criminal justice system should be examined. But there is still bias within that system, he said, and the council is tasked with addressing it.
Carol Wickersham, who teaches sociology at Beloit College, agreed with the importance of looking at multiple data points. But she also said she knows how long it took the council to pick disorderly conduct as a narrow lens to look through.
“In the meantime, it feels to me like there are some things that we can be addressing,” she said. “So I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole of years of research.
“I just don’t want to spend years of researching and then come back to that and say we still don’t have enough data.”
She said it was a “wise decision” to look at disorderly conduct arrests.
Kendra Schiffman, a data analyst with Rock County Human Services, provided the disorderly conduct data.
She said she agrees that they should look at more decision points within the system to study bias, but it’s an “enormous” amount of work to study these variables over time, and the council needs to decide who does what and how.
“It’s a matter of setting priorities,” she said. “With all due respect, I believe that this group has had a hard time of setting those priorities. And when you have limited resources, you have to set priorities before expending those resources.”
She continued: “You don’t have to have all the pieces together to act,” adding that there is lots of data out there already.
Faun Moses oversees the state public defender’s office for Rock and other nearby counties.
Like others at the meeting, she said she doesn’t want to point fingers. But she sees bias against her office’s black and brown clients and thinks the council has a lot of work to do.
Beyond the discussion on the data, both chiefs agreed that there was work to be done on fixing bias in the criminal justice system.
“I can tell you that I’m not going to wait for CJCC to have me make changes,” Moore said to Morse, the public defense attorney. “There’s things I can change. We’re moving forward with that. I’ve got some ideas on those.”
“I would agree with that, as well,” Zibolski added.
The council decided not to meet in August, which members said is similar to what the group has done in past years.
Its next meeting will be in September.
Russell C. Anderson
Doris Henning Condon
Bruce L. Dallman
Phyllis J. Denzer
Donald E. Randall
Anna Marie Riepe
Thomas James Schaitel
Kenneth Keith Thoreson
David Joseph Zigler
Retired teachers Ed and Chris Stried found a simple way to stay fit when the coronavirus ended their normal workouts earlier this year.
On March 24, they bundled up and set out from their Janesville home on South Harmony Drive for their first daily walk.
Early on, they noticed trash—lots of it.
Soon they began picking up litter, including protective face masks, latex gloves and bottles of hand sanitizer.
They also found plenty of beer and soda cans, small liquor bottles, fast-food paper and plastic, candy wrappers, and vaping equipment.
To protect themselves, the Strieds wear washable or disposable gloves and use “one of those dorky grabbers, which I think I inherited from my mother,” Ed said.
On July 4, when they took their 100th walk, they estimated they had picked up 10,000 pieces of litter.
“Every once in a while I would count the pieces because I was curious,” Ed said. “On some days, there were more than 200. I was amazed at the number.”
The amount also surprised Chris.
“How can we as citizens get rid of our trash that way?” she asked. “You wonder what goes through people’s minds when they throw their stuff out the window.”
But rather than complain, the couple decided not to berate people for spoiling the landscape.
Instead, they channeled their concern into action.
“Our attitude is that we won’t solve the problem,” Ed said. “But we can do something.”
They hope others will follow their example.
“Give it a try,” Ed said. “We’ll never live in a litter-free world, but let’s see what we can do to improve the one we have.”
Combine walking with picking up trash, and the results are better health and a cleaner neighborhood.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Ed said.
The Strieds carry a reusable cotton bag or two, which can be washed, and often dump the litter they find in a trash receptacle along their route. Sometimes, they collect another bag or two before returning home.
Their daily cleanup effort has reached beyond their neighborhood.
“In more than 100 walks, we have never taken the same route twice,” Ed said. “We’re always looking for a street we never have been down before.”
The Strieds have driven to different parts of Janesville to walk and have even scoured for trash on hikes in Milton, Clinton, Brodhead and Lake Mills.
Sometimes, they stride along the wooded trail near the Rock River in Riverside Park.
“Every once in a while, we will come across a street I never heard of before,” Ed said. “There’s always something interesting when you are out walking.”
Chris has noted various home improvement projects, including landscaping and new roofs, along the way.
“We’ve also gotten to know some people,” she said. “They come out and chat with us about their projects. It’s kind of nice. We are looking for a little social contact.”
Chris taught Spanish for many years and discovered the joy of art after retirement. She works in watercolors, pastels and colored pencil.
In addition to walking, she is back with her personal trainer on Zoom and also has done some workout classes online.
Ed taught high school English for 40 years. He goes golfing most afternoons since the courses reopened.
Both continue to walk and don’t see any possibility of running out of trash to pick up anytime soon.
“Some of what we picked up has accumulated over weeks and months,” Ed said. “So we like to think we are seeing some improvement.”
He and Chris believe their action reflects the words of Teddy Roosevelt, who notably said, “Do what you can with what you have where you are.”
“That advice is always worth following,” Ed said. “But it seems particularly apt during this unusual time.”
Anna Marie Lux is a human interest columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.