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Nearly One-Fourth Of LUHS Students Opt Out Of In-Person Schooling


MINOCQUA – The hallways of Lakeland Union High School will be noticeably less crowded this fall as about a quarter of the students have decided to continue their education either by virtual/online learning or by remote learning, according to a school official there.

The fear of contacting, or bringing home, the COVID-19 virus is the primary reason so many families have chosen to opt out of in-class learning. District Administrator Robert Way broke down the numbers for the three options that parents and their high school age children were provided through a questionnaire sent to each family this summer.

“Our priority is the traditional in-person instructional model,” Way said. “Some families are looking for options other than in-person learning, and we are respecting that.”

He said 517 students would be attending in-school classes five days a week. Another 120 have opted for virtual/online learning, while 80 have chosen remote learning. The start of the 2020-21 school year for freshmen and transfer students is Tuesday, Sept. 1. The rest of the student body starts school the following day, Sept. 2.

Currently, student enrollment has increased by 34 over last year’s enrollment. School officials say in-person learning provides the best educational experiences and outcome for students. Students are more focused on the subject matter and teachers can cue in easier if the student has difficulty grasping a subject.

The board approved an administration request to add four people to provide after-school support for students, especially for those choosing the online options. In addition, the district will post two full-time substitute teacher positions.

Board President Shari Nimsgern said the school board appreciates the work that Way, the rest of the administration team, teachers and support staff did in putting together the school re-opening plan. “Your dedication has not gone unnoticed,” she said. “We really are grateful for all of you stepping up for the education of our students at Lakeland.”

Board member Jim Wescott also praised the administration team for putting into place the remote learning option in a short period of time. He and fellow board member Gary Smith at the earlier special meeting this month had pushed for adding that option.

The online options

LUHS has chosen the Edgenuity curriculum for its virtual learning option “to meet the challenge of Common Core and state standards, as well as (the) state’s graduation requirements.” It includes “direct instruction videos, interactive tasks and assignments and formative and summarized assessments.”

Remote learning, on the other hand, delivers “educational programming through online platform delivered by the LUHS teachers on (the student’s) class schedule.” The administrator team and staff have set guidelines and requirements for off-campus learning, according to Principal Justin Szews. For instance, attendance of remote learning students will be taken daily during scheduled class periods. Active participation is expected. Five unexcused absences in a semester could lead to court intervention as habitually truant, which is the same outcome as in-school learning.

Way reiterated that precautions are being taken to protect students and staff from contacting the COVID-19 virus at school, including social distancing and wearing of masks requirements, as well as daily disinfecting of desks and the like, along with special seating arrangements on buses. He cautioned that various sporting events might be postponed or cancelled due to a COIVID-19 outbreak. Likewise, in-class learning might be switched to the online learning platforms as needed. “We’re facing a pandemic that we have not seen in our lifetime,” he said. Way will continue to meet regularly with Oneida and Vilas health department personnel to monitor the COVID-19 cases and level of risk. Way said learning plans may change following recommendations by the health departments.Way will continue to meet regularly with Oneida and Vilas health department personnel to monitor the COVID-19 cases and level of risk. Way said learning plans may change following recommendations by the health departments. Still unanswered is whether those changes will be made by the administration or by the school board.  

In remarks after the meeting, Way said the district has no plans to deliver free and reduced cost lunches to eligible students opting for virtual or remote learning from home. He said the district however might look at that service sometime in the future, especially if state money is available. Also, school meal service will be offered as a pick up option if closure for five days or more.

In another matter, Way plans to meet this week with the Minocqua town chairman, following town board concerns on who should pay for the school resource officer (SR)) if the school is closed for an extended time due to COVID-19 cases. The town won’t sign the SRO contract until clarification is reached. The contract calls for the school district to pay for the officer’s salary while on duty at the school: roughly nine months’ worth.

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