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Pandemic's effects on staff, students `heartbreaking', says superintendent
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Pandemic's effects on staff, students `heartbreaking', says superintendent

Kenosha Unified Superintendent Sue Savaglio-Jarvis’ report to the KUSD School Board was indicative of uncertain times — somber and yet, still plugging away a day at a time.

“Nothing about this pandemic has been easy or predictable, and we are working together to take each day in stride,” Savaglio-Jarvis said Tuesday night to a room with less than a dozen people and no one from the public in attendance. “Every time we think we have a plan finalized, directives change, and we’re pivoting to make adjustments for the health and well-being of our staff and students.”

The district closed all schools March 16 until further notice. Since then, public gatherings of 10 or more people, with some exceptions, such as government meetings, have been restricted in size. Wednesday Gov. Evers’ “Safer at Home” order that closes all businesses and workplaces not deemed essential, went into effect. Many throughout Kenosha County, including Unified administration, have already been working from home.

Still serving families

Since closing, the district staff has prepared meals for about 1,500 students 18 and under, for drive-up pick up at designated school sites and other venues. Savaglio-Jarvis said the district staff is also developing a plan “to keep learning alive during a very stressful, uncharted time.”

Earlier, Savaglio-Jarvis sent letters to students and their families acknowledging their fears, especially seniors concerned about graduation uncertainties. She said in the letter she is seeking answers from the state on how their grades and credits would be affected.

“I especially understand the fears and trepidation among our high school seniors. They are fearful they may not be able to walk the stage as has been done for hundreds of years in celebration of a monumental achievement. I assure you, our goal is to provide as much support and normalcy for this group, as well as all others, despite the challenges we are facing,” she said in the correspondence.

At the meeting, she said this time of year students would’ve been entering the last quarter of the school year with educators motivating them to “give their all” to celebrate their achievements, she said.

“It has been ripped away from all of us. It’s been ripped away from our students in this community, and it truly, truly is heartbreaking,” she said.

Plans in the works

Despite the uneasiness of the times, the superintendent outlined a number of activities and plans that are still under way or already in the works that have kept the district going, including:

A “deep clean” of every school, with emphasis on areas recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention. Cleaning crews are using “electrostatic” sprayers with disinfectants designed to kill the virus.

Contractor work on building upgrades for Bradford and Tremper high schools, Lincoln Middle School, Pleasant Prairie, Stocker and Wilson elementaries as part of the nearly $4.7 million in facilities projects the board authorized earlier from the district’s $7 million surplus. More schools are expected to be added and will be deep cleaned as well, before students return.

Activation of “Google Hangouts” and a new VPN feature to support remote-access for computer and mobile devices for staff

Waivers for required instructional minutes and pupil audit requirements, as a result of the health crisis, which will come before the board in April for authorization

Continual communications with staff, students and families regarding the latest information on the pandemic available in English and Spanish on the www.kusd.edu

Distribution of surplus-driven $1,000 stipend per full-time equivalent staff, distributing about $2.5 million to 2,531 eligible employees

She celebrated Hillcrest Principal Eitan Benzaquen, who last week was named Principal of the Year by the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators.

“It’s truly leaders like Dr. Benzaquen who help make our district a wonderful place to work,” she said.

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