Baldwin to return to in-person learning next month

About 20% of students choose to remain virtual 

Baldwin Community Schools students will be able to return to the physical classroom on March 1. All students have been learning remotely since last March. (Star file photo)

Baldwin Community Schools students will be able to return to the physical classroom on March 1. All students have been learning remotely since last March. (Star file photo)

BALDWIN — Students at Baldwin Community Schools will officially be able to return to the classroom on March 1.

"The governor wants schools to reopen by March, and we believe we can safely make that deadline knowing full well that there are going to be possible spreads," Superintendent Rick Heitmeyer said. "But we'll be ready to do the contact tracing and chase things down and keep people informed in quarantine as we need to."

The decision to return students to in-person instruction was made at a recent board of education meeting, and it will be the first time students will have the opportunity to learn in the physical classroom since schools were shutdown last March.

Prior to the meeting, the district surveyed families to see which type of learning they would prefer. Of those who participated, nearly 78% of students said they would prefer to go back to in-person learning, while just over 22% — or 88 students — said they would prefer to remain virtual.

For those returning to in-person instruction, Heitmeyer said some new guidelines will be in place to ensure the safety of both students and staff.

"Everyone will wear masks at all times. That is a requirement right now and our expectation," he said.

Additionally, there will be increased cleaning in all school buildings, and parents will be asked to screen students for COVID-19 symptoms.

Heitmeyer also noted many staff are on their way to receiving the second dose of their COVID-19 vaccine.

"The bottom line is we're going to do everything we can to keep people safe and to keep school open," he said.

Wednesdays also will be asynchronous days to allow teachers to prepare lessons for those learning virtually and to help students and staff adjust to the long period away from the physical classroom.

Despite buildings remaining closed since last March, Heitmeyer said he hopes that the return to in-person instruction will help alleviate some of the stress families are facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There are profound unmet needs that we have encountered and it's with health, relational, food, shelter, mobility … These are things people have faced for almost a year now," he said.

The board of education will meet again at 6 p.m. on March 16 to reconfirm plans for in-person instruction.