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SHEBOYGAN — The Sheboygan Area School District's latest proposed plan recommends students returning to in-person hybrid learning on Jan. 4—but don't mark your calendars just yet.

Though it remained a possibility to return sooner rather than later, the new return date comes a full three weeks prior to the Jan. 25 start date originally determined at the Nov. 24 board of education meeting.

However, that date could once again change next week as a special board meeting has been set for Tuesday, Dec. 15.

The board's next steps:

A parent survey will go out to all district families  on Wednesday, Dec. 9. This survey will look to gather information about how their children have done in the virtual learning models, what they would like to see happen moving forward and an evaluation of student mental health. 

A special board meeting will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 15, to evaluate the results. From that, the date could once again be changed based on new survey and community spread information. 

Though Harvatine's initial recommendation at the start of the meeting was to return on Jan. 4, after nearly two hours of discussion from community members and board members, the board collectively decided it was best to wait until the parent survey results have been analyzed to make a decision on setting a more firm return date.

The board ultimately agreed it was best not to send out communication to district families about a Jan. 4 return, and rather to keep the tentative resume date at Jan. 25 until next week's meeting.

Below are the major details of the plan set forth when students and staff do return:

• Elementary will return 5 days per week with enhanced emphasis on social distancing in classrooms and group sizes.

• Middle and high school students will operate in a rotational cohort model. Students will be divided into A and B cohorts, rotating between in-person and virtual learning throughout the week so all students will experience both methods of learning.

• Families will continue to have the opportunity to choose an all-virtual learning model regardless of when and if in-person learning returns.

Reasoning behind the decision:

Harvatine cited back to the metrics and community data that have been the driving force behind the board's decision-making throughout the pandemic.

"In terms of the metrics, they're coming down. Over the previous reporting every two weeks, we saw the metrics climbing, but we're seeing that begin to climb down—we've come down quite a bit even in the last few weeks," he said in the meeting. "We don't know what surge will or won't be after the 1st (of January). We were told by experts that we would see a surge after Thanksgiving weekend, and we haven't seen that. Instead, we continue to drop."

When it comes to moving forward, Harvatine said the board will continue to monitor that same data and if any concerns arise, it will be managed at both the classroom and building level first. For example, if a classroom or building is experiencing a high rate of absences due to COVID-19 or quarantine, they will assess if virtual learning is necessary in that classroom or building.

The recommendation received extremely varied comments from board members and community members giving public input at the meeting—several in support of getting kids back into the classroom and several expressing their concern with returning too soon after the holidays.

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