OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – The Oshkosh Area School District (OASD) announced Friday that due to a ‘significant’ uptick in COVID-19 cases among students and staff upon their return from winter break, they have made the decision to extend its masking requirement and reduce staff isolation/quarantine periods.

In a video to OASD families, Dr. Bryan Davis, OASD Superintendent of Schools, shared that all students, staff, and visitors will need to continue wearing face coverings in all school buildings through January 28.

“We anticipate being able to go to a face coverings optional environment after January 28, we’ll monitor that as we get to that point and send an announcement out. We’re hopeful we can get there but we just need to get through this COVID-19 surge that we’re in right now and we know that the face-coverings will help us do that,” explained Superintendent Davis.

Additionally, District officials say they have also decided to reduce staff isolation and quarantine periods from 10 days to five days as long as their symptoms are improving or they’re asymptomatic.

According to OASD, this change allows the District to use the CDC’s updated evidence-based guidance to continue to mitigate COVID-19 but also have staff return to work faster so that in-person learning can continue.

“This will allow our adults to get back to school quicker to be able to maintain that in-person instruction,” said Superintendent Davis.

And as OASD battles against COVID-19 cases and staffing shortages, Superintendent Davis confirmed that they are now doing “behind-the-scenes planning for some short-term virtual learning”.

Superintendent Davis says that while a decision to go virtual is the ‘last resort’, planning for it will ensure a quicker return to in-person classes if it happens.

“To make sure that if we do need to go for a short period of time to virtual learning that we can do that and get back to in-person instruction as quickly as possible,” said Superintendent Davis.

District officials said more information on what short-term virtual learning may look like at OASD schools is likely to be released next week.

“Our reality is that significant variables, including staff shortages, substitute availability, and bus driver shortages, impact our ability to remain in-person. While it is our greatest hope that we will not need to move any school to short-term virtual learning due to a critical staff shortage, we want our families and staff to be prepared in case we would need to make that decision,” shared Superintendent Davis.