Home Madison Barring “catastrophic” development, Madison schools intend to resume in-person after one-week “pause”

Barring “catastrophic” development, Madison schools intend to resume in-person after one-week “pause”


Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dr. Carlton Jenkins confirmed Friday that Madison schools intend to return to in-person learning Monday, January 10, after three additional days off and two days of virtual learning.

“It’s very aspirational that Monday, (January 10,) given that there is nothing catastrophic that takes place … we should be back moving (to) and being consistently back in school for the remainder of semester,” Jenkins said in an online press conference Friday.

The announcement comes a day after the district announced that the scheduled return to school on January 3 would be delayed until Thursday, January 6, and that school would resume in virtual format. District administration didn’t tell parents or staff when they hoped to return to in-person instruction at the time, but Madison365 was able to confirm the plan to return after just two days of virtual learning last night.

Jenkins said Friday that the intent is to “pause for a week so that we can get back in school and stay in school.”

Jenkins said a final decision on whether to return to in-person learning or extend virtual instruction would be made by Thursday, January 6, and would depend on a number of factors.

“Our goal is to get back and make an announcement Thursday based upon where we are, but something catastrophically could happen,” he said. “I can’t control the virus. I can’t control if the governor steps in.”

Dr. Gregory DeMuri, a pediatrician with UW Health who helps advise the school district, said COVID spreading among students in school is not necessarily the primary factor.

“We did find out important information last school year, that community activity was not predictive of transmission within a school,” DeMuri said. “Paradoxically, schools appear to be a safer place for kids to be than in the household where most transmission occurs. With that said there are other factors that are really important as well, such as infections in staff members, staff quarantine, and staff safety. That’s the primary concern.”

Jenkins said one more week out of school will help the administration plan to cover for staff absences due to COVID quarantines and other illnesses.

Human resources chief Tracey Caradine said in December, schools were only able to cover about half of all staff absences with substitutes, a situation that’s been worsening each month this school year.

“Some of the things we can’t do that we used to be able to do” to deal with staff shortages, Jenkins said. “We used to double up a classroom and that was kind of a simple solution, right? Well, with the spread rate, and the proximity, you just can’t double up a classroom. You just can’t increase the study halls.”

Jenkins said administrative staff have been filling in in classrooms as staff have been forced to quarantine.

He also said not all students went home for break with all the devices they’d need for virtual learning, so the additional three days off will allow the district to get those devices into the hands of those students.

Jenkins also said an additional week will also allow the district to craft plans to close or convert to virtual learning in a specific school if an isolated outbreak happens, rather than shutting down the entire district.

Madison Teachers, Inc president Michael Jones said the teachers’ union has been in constant communication with administration and hopes to take politics out of the issue.

“I think it’s easy to look at this in political terms, in terms of saying, ‘well, the union thinks this way, or the district thinks this way.’ But we look at it as, what is the science telling us?” Jones said.

He also said the union would be pushing the school district to offer more paid leave time for teachers who’ve had to use sick days to quarantine after a positive COVID test or exposure.

“People are on the verge of, of losing, losing money out of their paycheck or, you know, just having their whole sick days wiped out. And we’re not even halfway through what’s a typical flu season,” he said.

School board president Ali Muldrow said the schools are depending on the rest of the community to help stay open.

“I want to ask our community to prioritize our schools,” she said. “Please reconsider your new year’s Eve plans. Please get your booster, get your family vaccinated and wear a high quality, medically informed mask when in social settings. Thank you to everyone who has supported us, our teachers and our children throughout these unprecedented times.”