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Extra safety precautions implemented as Oconto Unified School District heads back to school

Students tell Action 2 News they were excited about the chance to see their friends again.
Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 4:02 PM CDT
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OCONTO, Wis. (WBAY) - The Oconto Unified School District welcomes back hundreds of students and staff for the first day of a new school year.

As we first reported last Tuesday, nearly 900 students in the district are returning to the classroom, but the experience comes with new safety precautions.

“We’re excited. It’s a beautiful day, the sun’s shining,” said Emily Miller, Oconto Unified School District Superintendent. “The kids are smiling, and everybody’s really happy to be back.”

The start of a new school year in the Oconto Unified School District requires masks with students stopping outside of the door to put on hand sanitizer.

“Right now, we are trying to keep groups to a small cohort of kids so we can make sure that we’re not intermixing,” said Miller. “That seems to be going well. We had a lot of information out to families about which doors to go to.”

One art room in the high school highlights the changes inside of classrooms to encourage social distancing. Clear plexiglass barriers separate students not just in their workspace but even at the pottery wheels.

“I’m going to give them a one week lesson instead of a three week lesson where we’re sharing all of the tools,” said Heather Rennie, an art educator at Oconto High School.

Rennie tells Action 2 News she was excited on Tuesday to see her students in-person for the first time since March. “Normalcy. Let’s get back to some sort of normalcy.”

“It’s been a while since we’ve been in school,” said Madilyn Thomson, a seventh grader at Oconto Middle School.

Madilyn and her sister, Hannah, say the masks and other safety precautions are an adjustment but say it is all worth it to return to the classroom.

“Seeing all of our friends, that’s nice,” said Hannah Thomson, an eighth grader at Oconto Middle School. “We get to be with everyone.”

Miller expects cases of COVID-19 in the district this school year, but she emphasizes her plan to closely monitor the situation on a daily basis taking action when it is required.

“Our Blue Devil attitude needs to be we’ll get through this, and if we do it together, we’ll be stronger,” said Miller.

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