Janesville School District Superintendent Steven Pophal told the school board at its meeting Tuesday night he anticipates “the vast majority” of students and families will opt for in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year despite the existence of virtual options.
In the district’s elementary schools, schools will continue to have smaller class sizes similar to last school year, Pophal said. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed its social distancing recommendation from 6 feet to 3 feet for children, which will help the elementary schools navigate the year, he said.
“As we know, elementary kids are not able to be vaccinated right now,” Pophal said. “We don’t know when or if, frankly, that reality will happen. As a result, we’re using similar class size ratios in our elementary schools this year as we did last year.”
Middle and high school students older than 12 are able to get vaccinated if their families so choose.
“We recognize that some parents will choose that and others won’t,” Pophal said. “We’re respectful of whatever that choice might be.”
ARISE Virtual Academy, the district-run online charter school, will continue to be an option for all students, as well. ARISE students in kindergarten through eighth grade will phase in district curriculum in math and language arts to add more focus on direct instruction. A hybrid of ARISE and traditional classroom instruction is still an option for grades six through 12.
“Last year we learned that kids need to come to school because there are certain things that work better, particularly with our younger kids and having a more direct teacher-to-student learning,” Pophal said. “We call that synchronous learning. Some kids and family situations, it (online instruction) works OK but for others it’s a pretty heavy lift and particularly a heavy lift for a younger child.”
Some safety protocols for the upcoming school year will carry over from last year. The district will continue to monitor recommendations and requirements from the Rock County Public Health Department, the state Department of Health Services and the CDC.
Other safety protocols have changed, including the approach to quarantining.
“If you have been vaccinated, you’re exempted from being quarantined as long as you’re symptom-free,” Pophal said. “If you have not been vaccinated, the requirement is essential. That’s the requirement at the moment.”
Masks are now optional in the schools but must always be worn on buses to adhere to a federal mandate.
Extracurricular activities, such as athletics, clubs and field trips, will return in the fall, Pophal said.
Registration for the fall school year has already begun and applications are due Aug. 9. People with questions should call the Infinite Campus Registration Help Desk at 608-743-5047. The desk is open 8 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.