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Parker’s Shay Riley (16), right, pushes the ball over the net as Craig players jump to defend Thursday, September 12, 2019, at Parker High School in Janesville.


Education
top story
Milton School District reopening plan prompts questions

MILTON

Milton School District families must decide by Friday how their students will attend school amid the pandemic this fall, and the quandary prompted many questions from parents at two virtual sessions Tuesday.

Superintendent Rich Dahman said some questions could not be answered because they depend on information the district receives from parents.

Under the district’s reopening plan, Milton Forward, parents are asked to choose between virtual learning and onsite learning for grades 4K-6. Students in grades 7-12 have the option of a hybrid model that has them in school every other day.

When the district knows how many students will attend school in person, officials can then establish small groups known as “cohorts” to minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus, Dahman said Tuesday.

Under “cohorting,” an option recommended by the state Department of Public Instruction, students are assigned to a small group of peers, which will allow them to physically distance more easily.

In grades 4K-6, cohorts will meet five days a week with a primary homeroom teacher. Classes such as art, music and physical education will take place within the cohorts’ learning environment. Lunches and recesses will be staggered to encourage physical distancing between cohorts.

Students in grades 7-12 will be assigned to A/B cohorts based on last names. A/B schedules will alternate between in-person and virtual instruction every other day.

Dahman said parents will have opportunities to change their minds during a week in mid-August and during the first week of school.

He also acknowledged that situations can change for families and communities. He said it’s easier for the district if students onsite switch to virtual learning because that doesn’t increase the size of the cohorts.

“Starting virtual then coming to school is trickier logistically,” he said, adding that switching in that case would be allowed if space is available.

If students have been learning onsite but get sick or must quarantine, he said they would be able to switch to virtual learning.

The number of students in a cohort will depend on the size of a room and 6 feet or more of social distancing. While a specific number of students has not been set, Dahman said about 15 is a general guideline.

It’s not yet clear if the district will need to hire additional staff.

“It is a possibility, but it is also a significant cost,” Dahman said.

Face coverings will be required for students, staff and visitors. Dahman said face shields, bandannas and gaiters will be allowed along with face masks.

Milton moves forward with back-to-school plan

After a two-hour discussion Monday, the Milton School Board approved the school district's reopening proposal, “Milton Forward: Instructional and Building Reopening Plan for 2020-2021," on a 5-2 vote.

When students are more than 6 feet apart, they will be allowed to take off their masks for a “mask recess.” When students are social distancing and no one is moving around the classroom, masks are “recommended” but not required, he said.

Lunch, recess and physical education will be physically distanced, Dahman said.

Students and staff are required to be screened for COVID-19 at home. Before coming to school, they must not have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher and one or more of the other symptoms.

When students arrive at school, they will go immediately to their classrooms.

Lockers will not be used. Instead, Dahman said students will be allowed to bring backpacks into classrooms.

Dahman encouraged parents to ask questions of principals and administrators. He advised waiting to ask questions about transportation and when students need to be quarantined because the district needs to get more information.

Academically, “the expectations for students when they’re not onsite would be the same standards that students have when they’re onsite,” Dahman said. “We decreased our expectations this spring because we were jumping into virtual learning without time for staff to be prepared.”


Coronavirus
top story
Whitewater City Council votes to require masks in buildings open to public

WHITEWATER

The Whitewater City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to require masks in buildings that are open to the public to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Starting Saturday, Aug. 1, anyone who is age 5 or older in the city must wear an intact face covering when in an area of a building that is open to the public and when he or she is in line—indoors or out—to pick up food, drinks or goods.

The ordinance is effective until the end of the year unless the council decides to terminate it earlier.

The ordinance lists an example of a building where a public reception lobby does require masks, but spaces in that building where others work—and the public isn’t allowed—does not require masks.

Masks must also be worn at the Whitewater City Market and the farmers market held on Saturdays. The city manager will create a policy for city employees and for those in a city facility.

Private homes and apartment buildings do not fall under the ordinance.

Some exceptions to the ordinance are for those who have a written note from a health care provider, those who fall under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for exceptions because of medical conditions or disabilities, and those whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a mask.

“If a person states that they have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask it shall be assumed that it is true without further verification,” the ordinance states. Council members discussed this passage but decided to leave it in.

The police department will be responsible for enforcement, but Police Chief Aaron Raap and council members are planning to urge the public not to call 911 about these violations. Doing so could overwhelm the city’s dispatch.

The ordinance calls for a warning for first offenses. A citation would come if a person refused to comply on first warning or for subsequent offenses.

A ticket for a first offense would be between $10 and $40, and for offenses beyond that it would cost between $50 and $150. Other costs would raise how much is owed, but the city attorney said that is typical in other locations and with other ordinances.

Building owners or operators have the right to refuse service or entry to anyone violating the ordinance.

In asking for public comments to be submitted ahead of the virtual meeting, city Clerk Michele Smith said she received roughly 100 submissions.

Among them, the Whitewater Area Chamber of Commerce expressed its support, saying, “We feel that it is in the best interest of the economic health of our members to foster a culture of business practices that will enable the continued growth and success of the whole community.”

The owner of a Culver’s restaurant in Whitewater also wrote in support of the ordinance. That owner said masks are worn by all staff members and that they take daily temperature checks.

However, that Culver’s is closed, the owner wrote, because someone who works there was exposed outside the restaurant, and it later had two employees test positive. The owner also said there is no evidence of transmission within the Culver’s and that they hope to reopen soon.

About 11 people spoke during the meeting’s public comment period, with seven of them speaking in general favor of the ordinance. The rest expressed varying degrees of opposition.

In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in both Walworth and Jefferson counties, as well as in Whitewater, according to the ordinance.

Council President Lynn Binnie said the city has about 109 confirmed cases, but about 40 of those have come in recent weeks. That’s an accelerated pace when compared to the first few months of the pandemic.

Evidence shows, according to the CDC, that face masks reduce the egress of respiratory droplets that spread the disease.

“Wearing face masks is a simple and effective way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” the ordinance states.

City Manager Cameron Clapper in a July 10 letter foreshadowed a need for a mask requirement, asking business owners and operators to enact safety measures as recommended by public health officials.

He also said it was “critical” to the city’s economy that students return to UW-Whitewater, adding that the absence of students would mean “certain death,” for some businesses—such as the hospitality industry.

“However, the University’s success in keeping students in Whitewater may greatly depend on how well our local business establishments observe health and safety guidelines related to COVID-19,” Clapper wrote.

UW-W announced June 29 it would require masks and social distancing for students returning to campus in the fall.

Chancellor Dwight Watson spoke during Tuesday’s meeting in favor of the ordinance, as did new Whitewater Unified School District Administrator Caroline Pate-Hefty.

Also Tuesday, Stacey Lunsford, director of the Irvin L. Young Memorial Library, said that because of Whitewater’s rising case figures, the library would close to the public for in-person services starting Saturday.

Curbside pickup services will be available from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday starting Monday, July 27.

“We regret the necessity of this action but our priority is to provide the safest possible services for our patrons and our staff,” Lunsford said in an email.

Walworth County on Tuesday reported having a total of 973 laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 895 people having recovered.

Four patients were currently hospitalized, according to the county’s daily update, which reflects figures as of the previous day. Eighteen people in Walworth County have died from the disease, and 56 patients are isolating at home.

Going forward, Whitewater council members plan to discuss at a future meeting what they should do, if anything, about requiring masks where groups gather outdoors.

Members also stressed the need to educate the community about the ordinance and relevant exemptions. They discussed having some kind of signage that businesses can use to put on their doors, as well as ways to offer masks to those who are unable to get them.

One question came into the council asking what science background council members had.

Brienne Brown said she has 15 years of experience as an epidemiologist. Matthew Schulgit said he has been studying infectious diseases for the last three years and received a national award for his work. Carol McCormick said she had a biology major and math minor.

Council member James Allen said it was a “sad day” that they had to make this call and not the federal or state government.

“As a person with four of the health risks, I have to be very careful not to catch COVID-19 because I would most likely die from it,” he said.

In defending the ordinance, Allen also pointed to what was asked of the country during World War II.

“It’s a small sacrifice to make,” he said of wearing masks.

Correction: This article was updated on Thursday to show that the city manager will decide on a policy for city staff and for those in city buildings. 


David Clark enters in Model A Ford as the Rockford “A’s” Car Club prepares to leave following a lunch visit to the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville on Tuesday. The group specializes in the Model A Ford, built between 1928 to 1931, and have been restoring and touring the automobiles since 1967.


Obituaries and death notices for July 22, 2020

John C. Bausch

Fae I. Canaday

James “Jimbo” Condon

Vernette G. Garecht

Donald Charles Gilbert Jr.

Arleen Beverly Haibucher

Eric Hoium

Patricia J. Lemmer

Robert “Bob” Mansur

Valerie Leone Robinson

Thomas James Schlueter

Jerald “Jerry” Turner

Eleanor M. Winchester

Raymond B. Woods


Government
Official: Dismissed lawsuit does not affect Rock County's pandemic response

Rock County Administrator Josh Smith said the dismissal of a federal lawsuit challenging local safer-at-home orders does not change how the county is handling the coronavirus pandemic.

A federal judge Monday dismissed a lawsuit claiming health officers from across the state infringed on people’s rights when issuing local safer-at-home orders. The judge said those filing the suit did not properly join all defendants into one lawsuit, according to The Associated Press.

Rock County Health Officer Marie-Noel Sandoval was one of 14 officials named in the lawsuit along with members of the state Elections Commission.

Smith said the county maintains that Sandoval has the authority to issue public health orders such as the countywide safer-at-home order that lasted from May 13-21.

Gov. Tony Evers and Andrea Palm, secretary designee of the state Department of Health Services, on March 24 issued a statewide safer-at-home order closing all businesses deemed “nonessential” and instructing people to stay home except for necessary functions.

The state Supreme Court struck down that order May 13.

Later that night, Sandoval issued a countywide safer-at-home order, which lasted until the order was lifted about a week later.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Green Bay on May 20.

Sandoval has not issued any health orders since the safer-at-home order. Smith said that is not because of the lawsuit.

The Gazette could not reach Sandoval for comment by press time.

“We are always concerned about liability, but it cannot drive decision-making when we need to focus on public health outcomes,” Smith said.

In a previous interview with The Gazette, Smith said the county prefers encouraging people to wear masks and social distance because it is the right thing to do rather than enforcing an order.

“We have been looking at numbers and the science and looking at taking steps short of orders to get people to participate in distancing and mask-wearing,” Smith said.

Dane County and the city of Milwaukee have issued mask ordinances. Janesville officials have said they cannot enact a citywide ordinance because the city does not have a health officer or operate a health department.

U.S. District Judge William Griesbach said plaintiffs in the lawsuit could correct their errors and refile the suit.

The attorney representing the plaintiffs said he was reviewing whether to refile or appeal, according to the AP.

Smith said it is hard to predict whether the lawsuit will be brought back to court.

The dismissal was “welcome news” for the county because officials believe Sandoval did nothing wrong, he said.

There are currently 345 confirmed and active cases of the coronavirus in Rock County.

Since March, Rock County has seen 1,200 total confirmed cases, and 25 people have died.