EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - The Eau Claire School Board approved the district's proposed in-person learning plan for elementary school students Wednesday. Not all members were on board with the move, but in a six to one vote, the board approved the proposal.
"Tonight, and every day in our district, proves that there is not a single person involved with the Eau Claire Area School District that is not putting children first," said Eau Claire School Board President Tim Nordin.
Starting April 5, students in kindergarten, and grades three, four and five will be back in the classroom four days a week, the most these kids will have been in the classroom since last March. Students in grades one and two are already learning in-person four days per week.
District administrators said they decided it was time to allow these students to come back, based in part, on declining COVID case numbers, and vaccinations, which will be available for teachers starting March 1.
"I would like to start by stating my extreme disappointment that this vote is only being considered for K through 5," said one parent during the public comment period of the meeting.
She isn't the only parent who feels this way. The new proposal has left many parents asking why middle and high school students aren't included in the plan.
Administrators said while all students benefit from in-person learning, it is most critical for elementary school students for their learning and development. They also cited concerns about young children being left alone on virtual learning days.
Another reason cited by district administrators is a higher risk of exposure for middle and high school students as students change classes throughout the day.
"In each class, students would be close to between four and six other people. Students have seven classes," one administrator said.
The changes will result in larger class sizes, but parents of elementary schoolers who are currently learning under the hybrid model will have another option if they don't feel comfortable having their kids in a larger class. It will be called 'Cohort H'. Those students will be able to attend classes in real-time virtually from home, and staff will use their iPads or laptops to stream the in-person lessons to them.
Parents of elementary schoolers are being asked to take a survey to choose which option they would prefer for their child, which is available here. Students who are already learning completely virtually will continue to do so. Safety protocols like mask-wearing and extra cleaning also won't change.
The only school board member to oppose the in-person learning plan was Dr. Marquell Johnson, who cited past violations of COVID-19 protocols within the school district, and the possible disruption of learning for students.
If you missed Wednesday's special session, you can watch it in full on our WQOW Facebook page.