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ECASD referendum vote pushed to 2022, district discusses COVID plans, virtual snow days

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EAU CLAIRE (WQOW)- Residents in the Eau Claire Area School District won't be voting on the multi-million dollar referendum to address maintenance and overcrowding at several Eau Claire schools until 2022.

In February, the school board approved a timeline to get the referendum on the ballot in April 2021. Due to COVID-19, the school board voted Monday to delay the timeline by one year, and push the vote to spring 2022.

Officials said due to the pandemic, major milestones in the timeline have already been missed, and said it may be hard for taxpayers to afford a 2021 referendum.

Also at Monday's meeting, Superintendent Michael Johnson discussed how the district is preparing in case COVID-19 outbreaks have to shut down the district, or parts of it.

District officials are looking at closure models used by other school districts in the state and how those models could be applied locally, and determining the metrics that would warrant a closure. Johnson said any decisions would likely be made based on the number of staff and student absences due to COVID-19, substitute teacher availability, and state and local health department guidance.

He gave examples of what learning could look like for students and staff if an outbreak requires a closure at a classroom, cohort, school or district level. Johnson said the district should be prepared for closures as short as two weeks, or for as long as the rest of the school year.

"We have to plan for all of those," Johnson said. "Although it's not fun to do so, it's something we feel is very necessary."

Johnson said the recent spike in cases in Eau Claire County, and high number of cases tied to UWEC prompted district officials to plan ahead for a wide variety of scenarios that could arise at any point during the school year.

The district is currently operating under a hybrid model of in-person and virtual learning. Johnson said the transition plan is still being developed, with a goal of keeping students in the classroom wherever safe and possible.

Another change being proposed for students in the district: no more snow days.

The revision was included as part of a plan to modify the 2020-2021 calendar to reflect the instructional model the district adopted in July.
The school board was slated to discuss modifications, which included removing the make-up days currently on the calendar for June 4, June 7 to 9, however, further requests for calendar revisions prompted district officials to postpone the discussion.

The discussion and possible action on the calendar are scheduled for the October 5 school board meeting.

Jess Langlois

Jess Langlois is the weekend meteorologist and weekday multi-media journalist for News 18. She joined us in July of 2019.

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