Stoner Prairie hosts its third annual 'Read Your Heart Out'

Stoner Prairie Elementary School counselor Elizabeth Schlitz, first row, first column, leads the opening ceremony for Read Your Heart Out before sending readers off to Zoom classrooms on Thursday, Feb. 18. This is Stoner Prairie Elementary School’s third year of celebrating National African American Family Involvement Day with the Read Your Heart Out event, which invites members of the school and Verona Area School District to read books to students, which often feature Black characters or are written and illustrated by Black authors and artists.

By mid-July, the Verona Area School District had 33 students – most of them split between the elementary schools and grades 11-12 at the high school – opting for virtual learning.

A month later, that number has doubled to nearly 70 students, with the number of elementary school students participating in virtual learning for the fall semester doubling, and the number of middle schoolers opting in tripling to 15, after the district re-opened registration for the distance programs.

The largest increase was seen in grades K-5, with 17 new registrants signing up within the new registration period to a total of 33 students opting for virtual. Middle school saw the largest percentage increase, with 10 new students opting in to virtual, joining the five who had already signed up.

High school participation in virtual learning also increased, with one ninth grader and six 10th graders signing up, in addition to the 10 students in grades 11-12 who had signed up earlier in the year. A handful of other seniors registered in the reopening period, increasing the total of students participating to 20, from the 12 that originally signed up.

The district reopened the registration window for virtual instruction on Aug. 4, after it announced it would be mandating that all staff, students and visitors be required to wear a mask while inside school buildings, regardless of vaccination status, and closed it a week later on Aug. 11. It’s unclear whether the masking requirement, or the rise of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which studies have shown to be more transmissible and spreadable among vaccinated individuals, prompted the rise in virtual learning participation.

The district will work with two software programs – Edgenuity for grades K-8, and Educere for high school students – to provide the virtual learning options for interested families.

Based on a survey of families from earlier in 2021, 6% of families indicated some interest in doing some type of virtual learning as the district returns to five-day in-person education for the 2021-22 school year, a flyer from the district states.

Grades K-8 will attend five days a week and meet virtually with state-certified Edgenuity teachers, who will teach in alignment with the district’s educational standards. High school students who opt-in to online learning will attend asynchronously with no set class times, but teachers will be available during scheduled office hours for one-on-one support.

All students will be expected to take local and state assessments in person at a district school.

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.

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