Students across Wisconsin are headed back to school Tuesday morning.
For some, it will mean staying in their homes and logging onto a laptop to complete their coursework.
For many, it still means catching the bus and heading to school.
Schools everywhere are having to make changes to keep students and staff safe the school year starts in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the first changes you notice at Northland Pines High School is right on the front door.
A sign asks people not to enter if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. It also asks them to wear a mask, social distance, and use hand sanitizer.
“Some you can see visually, others you’ll have to see when the students are all here,” said Northland Pines District Administrator Scott Foster.
Some of the changes are obvious.
One-way signs direct students upstairs and through different hallways.
Desks are spaced farther apart.
Water fountains you drink directly from have been turned off and water bottle filler stations have been installed.
Plexiglass has been installed in the lunch lines.
On the lunch tables with attached seats, signs cover every other seat to encourage social distancing.
“For all of our changes, we really want to do it for safety but we didn’t want to take away the socialization and what the school experience is for kids,” said Foster. “We’re trying to find that balance.”
There will be staggered start times for different grade levels for students that switch classrooms so there’s not as many students in the hallways at once. Wherever possible, students will be staying with cohorts.
Students and staff are required to wear masks. Foster says they’ll be taking advantage of outdoor spaces to give people mask breaks.
“We have a beautiful campus so we’re going to take advantage of that,” said Foster.
The district is nearly fully staffed.
“We’re short one position, which pandemic or not, is really hard to fill,” said Foster.
The district has fewer subs lined up for this year, but Foster says the district will be able to manage.
As the first day of classes drew closer, Foster says he saw the shift in teachers, still concerned for their and the students safety, but also excited to see and teach the students again.
“We’re excited to have students back. We’ve missed them since March,” said Foster. “As much as we talk about six foot and all the safety, we can’t forget that this is really going to be a great school year where are relationships, our excitement for learning and all those things are going to shine through.”
Foster says about 85 to 88 percent of student’s district-wide have chosen in person classes this year.
The others are either doing virtual or hybrid programs.