WAPS react to WSU quarantine

According+to+Nancy+Dezer%2C+the+board+chair+for+Winona+Area+Public+Schools%2C+the+original+hybrid+plan+was+delayed+due+to+Winona%E2%80%99s+steep+increase+in+positive+COVID-19+cases.+Moreover%2C+community+service+for+Winona+State+sports+teams+has+been+put+on+hold+due+to+the+pandemic.

Morgan Reddekopp

According to Nancy Dezer, the board chair for Winona Area Public Schools, the original hybrid plan was delayed due to Winona’s steep increase in positive COVID-19 cases. Moreover, community service for Winona State sports teams has been put on hold due to the pandemic.

Alek LaShomb, News Reporter

Winona Area Public Schools started hybrid learning for grade levels seven through 12 on Sept. 28.

During Winona State University’s two-week quarantine at the end of September, public schools were forced to react out of caution of community spread.

The transition from distanced learning to hybrid became possible because of lower levels of positive COVID-19 cases.

Winona Area Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Annette K. Freiheit hopes the hybrid model can continue but is worried about upcoming holidays, which could impact COVID cases as people travel.

Transmission of COVID outside of the university in public schools has remained low with little to no spike, Freiheit said.

“Unlike the university, sports were also allowed to continue this fall, with all sports resuming the same day of the hybrid models implementation,” Freiheit said.

Both the hybrid model of learning and student athletics are dependent on community activity, especially at Winona State.

The concern is that students are out in the community and depending on their actions, may or may not contribute to widespread community transmission, said Freiheit.

Actions like that could also lead to big changes, as they did earlier in September for the school board.

Nancy Denzer, the board chair for Winona Area Public Schools, said original plans for the semester were altered due to a dramatic increase of cases within the Winona community.

Denzer believed it was a practical matter to change the learning model for grades seven through 12 but did not believe the blame for that fell on students.

Denzer said some emails were received by school board members that blamed certain groups, such as college students, for the increase in COVID cases, but did not believe the claims to be accurate.

Denzer says she believes it is not the school board’s role to judge the behavior of college students.

Denzer said the board hopes college students do not gather because the “drinking creates more opportunities to not practice social distancing.”

“These interactions and activities could lead to the stripping of educational opportunities, which are highly dependent on community case levels,” Denzer said.

For example, students majoring in education and having student teaching as a large part of their future career could be at risk if cases begin to spike again.

“Student teaching used to be largely based off of academics for applicants but now the process has

become more detailed, focusing on recreational aspects of students’ lives,” Denzer said.

Denzer added that while student teaching is allowed to continue with modifications, other things such as community service for Winona State sports teams has been put on hold due to the pandemic.

While COVID poses a serious physical health risk, Denzer said she is concerned about the mental health aspect and how it will impact students.

With winter comes further isolation indoors, which Denzer said she believes could possibly affect mental health during a pandemic, since people would be forced into their homes.

Denzer hopes college students and the larger community will take precautions to prevent further spread, helping people remain healthy both physically and mentally.

“I don’t want to relax to a point where I find myself doing something that compromises my morals,” Denzer said.

A similar message was echoed by fellow board member Allison Quam.

Quam is the liaison for Jefferson elementary school in Winona and also works as a librarian at Winona State.

Recalling the board’s original reopening plans, Quam said “the school board voted on August 12 for the model three learning plan, which was hybrid learning for all students.”

The hybrid plan was ultimately delayed due to Winona’s high increase in positive COVID-19 cases, which resulted in distance learning for grades seven through 12.

During “welcome weekend”, which kicks off the university’s school year, Quam remembers large social gatherings near her house, which is a mix of residential and student housing.

Initially, Quam was upset about the behavior because of the lack of social distancing guidelines that were being adhered by students.

Quam has said that the gatherings have winded down as the school year has progressed and believes a majority of students are being responsible with social distancing guidelines.

Regarding community spread of COVID, Quam believes it was inevitable for a spike to happen because Winona’s population was undergoing a change with the influx of incoming students.

Quam added that she was “very nervous with an increase in population” but that the numbers were lower than she expected.

While the gatherings have died down, Quam does miss working with students and the energy that they bring with them.

When asked what Winona State students and the community can do to better protect each other, Quam said people in the area need to help protect one another.

“Find ways to connect with people that keeps them safe, because we don’t know how long the COVID-19 pandemic is going to last,” Quam said. “We need to do everything to protect one another. I can’t be healthy if you put me at risk and you can’t be healthy if I put you at risk.”

Winona State and the Winona Area Public school board will continue to monitor COVID transmission levels with outside officials such as the State Department and Department of Health.

 

The opinions expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of Winona State University, the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, or the Winona State University student body.

Winona State University’s two-week quarantineat the end of September forced public schools like Winona Senior High to implement distant learning out of caution of community spread. The original hybrid plan was delayed due to Winona’s high increase in positive COVID-19 cases. (Morgan )