WAPS announces health and safety protocols for the 2021-22 school year

This is a letter from Superintendent Dr. Annette K. Freiheit to our families regarding the health and safety protocols to begin the 2021-22 school year.

Hello WAPS community —

We are excited to welcome our students back into our buildings for the 2021-22 school year. Before we do, we want to make you aware of our health and safety protocols for the upcoming school year. 

These protocols were developed by our Incident Command Advisory Team and were based on recommendations from local, state and federal public health experts. They were approved by the school board at its Aug. 19 meeting and will go into effect on Monday, Aug. 30 in all district buildings. 

They were put together with one goal in mind: To keep our students, staff, families and community healthy and safe while minimizing the disruption to learning. As educators, our No. 1 priority is — and always will be — the health and safety of our students. As you read over this plan and review it with the students in your family, please remember that.

Masks Required When Transmission is High

The full Safe Return to In-Person Learning Plan can be seen at this link, but here are the highlights: 

  • To start the school year, there will be a universal indoor masking requirement for all people entering district buildings, regardless of vaccination status, during classroom instructional hours, which we are setting as 7:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Following 3:45 p.m., the requirement applies only to the Key Kids Child Care program. 
  • This requirement is subject to change based on risk levels for COVID-19 transmission as determined by the CDC, but it will not change overnight. The Incident Command Advisory Team will continue to assess internal and community-level data on a regular basis. Usually, when there are low numbers of cases reported for 28 days (or two 14-day incubation periods), this data suggests low risk of transmission. Communication will be sent to all students, staff and families when a shift in the masking protocol is appropriate.
  • As per the federal order, all students and staff must wear masks while on school buses. This includes the route to and from school, as well as any transportation for activities after school. This order is in effect until further notice and cannot be repealed by WAPS administration.
  • Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 must stay at home for at least 10 days, and siblings and other household members must stay home for 14 days. 
  • Contact tracing will take place following notification of a positive COVID-19 case to determine close contacts needing to quarantine. Students and staff who are fully vaccinated, or have had lab-confirmed COVID-19 in the last 90 days may not need to quarantine. 
  • Students will eat lunch in the cafeteria. They will have assigned seats for contact tracing purposes.
  • Physical distancing will be implemented to the fullest extent possible.
  • WAPS will continue to offer Vault COVID-19 testing kits to students and staff. To request a test kit, contact Jackie Henderson, COVID-19 Coordinator, at jacqueline.henderson@winona.k12.mn.us or 507-494-0867. 

All protocols are subject to change depending on the level of COVID-19 transmission in our schools or in our community. 

It is our hope that these various mitigation strategies, when used together, will keep our students healthy, safe and in our school buildings. It is important that we, as a school community, come together and do everything we can to have a successful, happy and healthy school year. Unlike last year, we do not have the ability to move between in-person learning, hybrid learning and/or distance learning. We will be fully in-person, five days a week, for the entire school year. 

Please review these protocols with the student in your family. 

If your student is unable to follow these protocols, the WAPS Online Academy is an option you may want to consider. For more information, visit winonaschools.org/online. Please inform us of your intent to enroll in the WAPS Online Academy by Thursday, Aug. 26. Applications after that date will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Thank you for your continued cooperation, compassion and kindness when it comes to our Safe Return to In-Person Learning Plan. 

We can’t wait to see our students back in our buildings!

Thank you,
Dr. Annette K. Freiheit
Superintendent
Winona Area Public Schools