NDA Watches, Hopes to Learn from West DePere’s Return to In-Person Classes

Joey Bonadonna, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Starting this past Monday, the West De Pere school district made the decision to return to in-person instruction.

In lieu of this decision, the school community had a mixed response, both for and against.

Dennis Krueger, superintendent for the West De Pere school district, expressed confidence in his district’s ability to return to in-person instruction.

“We are committed to balancing what is best for a student’s learning and social and emotional well-being with safety for all individuals,” Krueger said.

“We believe the future of an entire generation is at stake if we continue in a fully remote style of learning,” school board director Jenni Fuss said in a statement to West De Pere teachers. “What impact will be had, if an entire year (or longer) is lost as it relates to the skills and knowledge being taught in the classroom, as well as the social and emotional development that occurs as a result of a traditional, in-person school experience?”

Some students are also happy about the decision to return and feel safe to do so. 

“I think the students have been doing a great job of wearing masks and social distancing and it shows with the limited number of cases we’ve had,” WDP junior Sam Aleknavicius said. “I think the administration and all the school staff has done a great job of setting protocols in place and making sure the students understand them.”

However, other students are upset by the decision, leading to protests in the parking lot of the high school, led by West De Pere senior Hannah Bauer.

“It’s a popular way to get attention these days, and everything else we had done had been ignored at that point,” Bauer explained. “We had emailed, written letters, given speeches, spoken to the media, and the school board still sent us to school, even after admitting that they had no metrics and that social distancing wasn’t possible in the buildings.”

Senior Maria Miller is another one of the students who was instrumental in setting up the protests.

“They never asked for a say in if students felt safe returning, they just assumed,” Miller said. “Not only that, but in the media they have been saying we have a choice.”

Not having a choice doesn’t extend from just the school, but for some students, from their own homes as well.

“I’ve surveyed multiple students who don’t feel safe returning to school, some of these being considered high-risk COVID cases, but some parents are still forcing these kids to go to school which I do not believe is best for their safety,” Miller said.

However, the West De Pere school district says that they are doing their best to meet the health and safety concerns of both students and staff.

“Safety is a top priority,” Krueger said. “We will continue to implement the five key implementation strategies of consistent and correct use of masks, social distancing to the largest extent possible, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, cleaning and disinfection and contact tracing in collaboration with the health department.”

However, some students still think their best isn’t enough.

“Even with students doing online school, the halls are crowded and social distancing in classrooms and the lunchroom is impossible. A lot of my peers aren’t taking mask-wearing seriously…,” Bauer said.

Bauer also expressed concern about the district’s failure to provide proper resources to low-income, disabled and special education students in the district.

When it comes to Notre Dame Academy and their return to in-person schooling, efforts are being made to make a safe return to school, but other factors will have to come into play too.

“Each school needs to make a decision that best meets its needs,” said Patrick Browne, NDA principal.

Browne compared all of the Green Bay schools to ships going into the same storm.

“I’m going to hope for them the very best, and I hope that we can learn from their voyage through that storm.”

As of now, the NDA administration has released the following benchmarks for returning to in-person instruction.

West De Pere’s reopening plan is the first step towards returning to normalcy in learning environments in Green Bay. 

Time will tell if this was the right decision.

Click here for more information on how COVID-19 is affecting our state.

Staff Writer Nick Bumgardner assisted with the research for this article.