Hillsboro School District Reflects On Past School Year, COVID Impacts
All three area school districts celebrated their 2021 graduating classes over Memorial Day weekend, seeing off their seniors with ceremonies and unique tributes. For the students left behind to continue with their high school education, the school year is swiftly coming to an end.
While students are looking forward to spending their summers in a variety of ways, the administration teams of each district are taking the time to reflect on the past school year and prepare for the year to come.
Hillsboro School District was one of the few to remain open for the majority of the school year, seeing only a brief two-week closure last fall and returning to full in-person instruction at the start of the spring semester.
Hillsboro Superintendent Curt Bisarek views the accomplishments of school staff as the best response possible for the district.
“Looking back on what was obviously a very challenging year, it’s really with no regrets,” says Bisarek. “It’s pretty impressive how well the school year went.”
The school district devised a ReSTART program over the 2020 summer break to ensure that students could return to classroom instruction as quickly and as safely as possible. While the school year began in Green, allowing for students to return to full in-person instruction, the status was shifted to Yellow by the end of September, with students split into two groups and alternating in-person and virtual instruction.
Student athletics were also able to take place, with Hillsboro joining the Ridge and Valley Conference for football as part of a pre-existing reorganization on the part of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA). Other fall sports, such as volleyball, were also brought into the Ridge and Valley Conference to ensure that the kids got to play in the fall.
While multiple exposures resulted in more than a few quarantines over the school year, Bisarek noted that the school district did not see any significant spread of actual infections, something he attributes to the dedication of the schools’ custodial staff.
High school and middle school principal Chris Koopman commended the efforts of the district’s teachers and remarked on the steep learning curves COVID-19 brought into the educational field.
“I think our teachers really stepped up big time,” Koopman says.
Koopman believes that Hillsboro’s teachers learned new ways to adapt to the changes brought on by the pandemic that can be used beyond COVID, resulting in a stronger Hillsboro School District. One of the key things learned by the staff, according to Koopman, is the ability to sharpen the focus on what students need to be learning.
Changes to education meant that Hillsboro’s teachers had to determine what aspects of the curriculum were the most critical to the students’ education, a skill Koopman believes will help improve the quality of education offered to students moving forward.
While data collected by this spring’s state testing has not yet been released, and likely will not be made a matter of public record until August or September, both Koopman and Bisarek are confident in the ability of their teaching staff to help students close any gaps that may have arisen during the initial lockdowns.
In addition to closing educational gaps, Hillsboro administrative staff have also indicated that advances in mental health have been a top priority for the district. Upperclassmen in the high school have been training on how to recognize and respond to mental health concerns, and the training program is expected to extend to sophomore students in the coming school year. Aside from anecdotal evidence, Bisarek has indicated that students have become increasingly willing to discuss mental health with their teachers and peers, a trend he equates to the increasing levels of training regarding the subject staff and students have undergone.
Moving forward, the Hillsboro School District will be examining expected issues that may remain factors in the coming school year related to COVID-19. While Bisarek admits that the past school year may not have gone perfectly, he is confident that Hillsboro Schools handled the situation to the absolute best of their ability and plans to continue in the coming school year.
“We have a lot to be very satisfied with in terms of how this school year went,” says Bisarek. “As we move forward, there’s been a lot of learning how to navigate [the changes].”