RACINE — Racine Unified students will have the option to return to school buildings beginning in March.
The Racine Unified School District announced a plan Monday night for a staggered rollout of in-person learning beginning March 1. Unified will continue to offer a remote learning option, where students can continue to learn from their classroom teacher from home via livestream.
When preparing for a return to in-person learning, the district had initially planned to offer parents who wanted to keep their kids at home its separate virtual learning option called Racine Virtual Learning, which would have meant a change of teacher and curriculum for those students. But after hearing feedback from parents and teachers about the importance of consistency and relationships formed so far this year between teachers and students, the district created the remote livestream option. The virtual learning option is available as well.
Families will receive a survey, likely later this week, allowing them to choose one of the three options. Parents will have about a week to complete it.
Students who want to return will participate in a four-day in-person school week, with Wednesdays at home, where they will still be expected to learn asynchronously.
Unified plans to bring back students in pre-K through sixth grade as well as high school freshmen and seniors on March 1. The week of March 8, seventh- grade students and high school juniors will return. The last group of students, eighth-graders and high school sophomores, will return on March 15.
Unified spokeswoman Stacy Tapp explained Monday that returning the youngest students first was always part of the district’s plan. The district also wanted to bring back students in grades six and nine as soon as possible since those are entry point grades into middle and high school. The seniors are in the first group to return to the buildings as well so the district can provide support to ensure they’re on track to graduate.
High school juniors will return prior to the March 9 test date for the ACT, which is required to be given in person.
Factors in the decision to bring students back to classrooms include a decline in the case rates of COVID-19 within the school district and the rollout of vaccinations, as well as feedback from families.
“We’re hopeful that the remainder of our staff, especially our educators, will start getting in for their vaccines very soon,” Tapp said. “We continue to work with the health department.”
More than 200 staff members have already gotten their first shot or are making their appointments, Tapp said. Nursing staff and some special-education staff, as well as counselors, were vaccinated as part of the state’s Phase 1A, the group given highest priority for vaccinations.
The district, local health departments and Ascension All Saints Hospital are working together to ensure staff receive vaccinations as soon as possible, Tapp said.