Will this school year be more normal? Physicians and district administrators step in | Medicine


MADISON (WKOW) — Class during COVID-19 has been anything but normal. From virtual learning to changing rules on masks, physical distancing and quarantine times, students, parents and educators have endured changing learning environments for nearly 2.5 years.

This fall, many hope things will be a little more normal. District administrators and doctors say they hope it’s possible.

“I’m very optimistic that we’re going to have an impression of the school year that’s much more like it was before COVID,” Dodgeville Superintendent Paul Weber said.

He attributes the optimism to the additional tools now available to fight the pandemic that schools did not have last year.

Before the start of the 2021-2022 school year, many doctors, including UW Health’s Jeff Pothof, encouraged schools to continue requiring masks and not get rid of other precautions.

“It didn’t feel like we had to put the kids in an environment where they could, you know, bear the full brunt of COVID,” he said. “Now you’re moving fast, you know, it’s only been a year – it feels like five – but things are different.”

Now children can get vaccinated against COVID-19 and receive a booster shot. Therapeutics that alleviate the symptoms of COVID-19 are widely available.

“Things are very different today than they were last year and the year before that,” Weber said. “We’re just in a different position with the pandemic.”

This is leading some districts, including Dodgeville, to relax their COVID-19 precautions.

Weber said for his district, masking will be optional, there will be less emphasis on physical distancing and the search for contracts is all but over.

He said the district is not ignoring COVID-19, but rather adapting to the evolving pandemic.

Pothof said he thinks this will be the approach taken by many schools, and he said it makes sense.

“With a lot with the school this year, it’s that trade-off between being able to run the school effectively and putting in place what is a reasonable mitigation against COVID-19,” he said.

He said part of that reasonable mitigation will include students staying home when sick and schools ensuring students who have been exposed to COVID-19 properly wear a mask for at least five days.

“We still have to do our best to try to reduce transmission in our schools,” he said. “It shouldn’t be free for everyone.”

However, he said the anxiety he felt last year as a parent has disappeared and he feels better about sending his children to school this fall.

“It’s not zero risk, but the risk looks lower, certainly lower than it was last year,” he said. “And there are benefits there, so I’m at peace with that.”

Several school districts in the area told 27 News that they are currently working to finalize their COVID-19 policies for the upcoming school year.

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