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‘They know that sometimes, we go to Plan B’: Going inside Edgerton schools during in-person learning

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EDGERTON (WKOW) -- When the final bell rings on the Edgerton School District's campus, it ushers in an entirely new set of work. Teachers hold meetings to review lesson plans while the buzz from Clorox spray machines signals another night of deep cleaning.

Edgerton schools have opted for a mix of in-person and hybrid learning. Students in grades K-6 attend class in person every day while those in grades 7-12 are in school twice a week, learning virtually for the other three days.

Staff and administrators said Wednesday they're determined to make the plan work and keep the virus out of schools, even as case numbers rise in both Rock and Dane counties. Edgerton is in Rock County, just south of the county line.

"We do what we know," said Andrea Johnson, a third-grade teacher at Community Elementary School. "We do what we can and should our numbers get to where they are unsafe or we can longer function face to face, then our board and administration makes that decision."

Community is the only school in the district to have shut down to an outbreak of cases. The school closed for two weeks earlier in the year but has since reopened. Superintendent Dennis Pauli said as of Wednesday, there were two current cases in the district -- one student and one staff member.

"I am incredibly proud of our teachers," Pauli said. "I truly believe their efforts certainly qualify them to be considered true American heroes, unequivocally."

The district's precautionary efforts revolved around both preventing spread of the virus and also to allow for easy and limited contact tracing when cases occur. Students in K-6 stay in the same room for the entire day, aside from recess and gym class. They even have breakfast and lunch delivered to their rooms. Students have assigned seats on the bus going to and from school.

High school students move around the building but at limited to four periods instead of the usual eight. There is not as much traffic since half the students learn in person Mondays and Thursdays while the other half are in the building Tuesdays and Fridays.

"A lot of our planning in the summertime was 'what if?' and wondering what it would be like," Pauli said. "Now that we're living it, probably the greatest surprise has been how comfortable students and staff are with masks."

Brian Rogula, the head custodian at Edgerton Middle School, said the major changes for his staff were wearing masks and simply increasing the frequency of their cleaning. Rogula used a Clorox spray machine in the art classroom; he said the district now had four of the units instead of the single one it had before the pandemic.

"A lot of the touchpoints we would hit on a normal basis would be on a weekly basis - your doorjambs, your desktops, your desks, table tops, things like that would be a couple times a week," Rogula said. "Now it's daily."

Johnson said the biggest change for her has been teachers learning as they go that, sometimes, what they spent four months planning will not work in reality. Either staff feel something is unsafe or realize it needs more cleaning, such as the laptops students share in Johnson's room.

"There's a lot of in the moment -- 'oh, we need to rethink that' and the kids have gotten used to that," Johnson said. "They know that sometimes, we go to Plan B."

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A. J. Bayatpour

Capitol Bureau Chief

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