Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau School District moves to virtual classes after COVID-19 outbreak

Local News

GALESVILLE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) -Two students and one faculty member from the Gale-Ettrick Trempealeau School District have tested positive for COVID-19. This has forced one area school to move to virtual learning. First News at Nine’s Hayley Spitler explains how the contact tracing process left the G-E-T High School short-staffed and temporarily online only.

The 400 G-E-T High School students won’t be walking through the school’s doors the next three weeks. Instead, they’re learning virtually after two students and one faculty member tested positive for COVID 19.

Families were notified last Thursday of the switch, with teachers reaching out to students with plans to fully start on Tuesday.

Michele Butler, G-E-T District Administrator said, “Instruction all morning with a very specific schedule and then in the afternoon, they have work time but they also can make appointments and teachers can reach out to students through office hours.”

The district was prepared to move virtually with a schedule in place from day one. Over the summer, every faculty member was taught the same virtual platform to make things easier for students. District administrator Michele Butler says that in some respect the high schoolers are serving as guinea pigs.

“If it happens at the middle school or it happens at the elementary schools, we’re ready to make it happen real quickly. We do not want it to though, we want to keep those kids in-person. It’s going really well,” said Butler.

While the high school only had three confirmed COVID-19 cases, it’s the contact tracing process that required a lot of faculty to need to quarantine and left the school short-handed.

Butler said, “As the contact tracing happens even though you don’t have a lot of positive cases that kind of balloons out real fast and when it’s the staff and it balloons out real fast there is no way to cover that many teachers with substitutes for the duration.”

Even before COVID-19, the G-E-T School District like many others were experiencing a shortage in substitute teachers.

Butler said, “With COVID-19 some of our substitute teachers are in that population, that demographic, that are at higher risk so some of them aren’t feeling comfortable coming back, so it makes that small sub-pool even smaller.”

The district which has around 14 hundred students has spent almost 30 thousand dollars on plexiglass this year to keep everyone safe.

Teachers wear face shields; elementary and middle school students have been placed in cohorts and cleaning takes place throughout the day.

G-E-T plans to welcome back high schoolers in person October 19.

In Galesville, Hayley Spitler, First News at Nine.

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