Madison schools intend to reopen for in-person learning on Monday, January 10, barring significant unforeseen circumstances, a district administration official confirmed with Madison365.
David Hart, special assistant to Superintendent Carlton Jenkins, said in a text message that “the plan is to go back January 10,” unless COVID spread or staff shortages worsen significantly before then.
Earlier Thursday, superintendent Carlton Jenkins informed parents that school would not resume January 3 as planned, but would be delayed until January 6, and would at that time convert to virtual learning. Jenkins did not say how long virtual learning would last, causing backlash among parents and staff on social media.
If the plan to return to in-person learning January 10 plan, that would mean a three-day extension of winter break and just two days of virtual learning.
At least three staff members said on social media that they were not informed of the hope to return to in-person learning January 10.
A media briefing was scheduled for 10 am Friday.
Madison School Board President Ali Muldrow wrote in a Facebook post late Thursday that the board would discuss the plan in an open meeting Friday.
“The extension (of) winter break for three days and the return to virtual learning for two days before returning to in person school on Monday January 10th 2022 will be discussed by the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education tomorrow in open session at 12:30 PM on zoom,” she wrote.
All virtual School Board meetings are streamed live on the District’s website here: https://www.madison.k12.wi.us/board-of-education/board-of-education-virtual-meetings.
“I know that this shift is a disruption in reestablishing stability for students, educators, and families. We are responding in real time to one of the most significant surges in Covid our community has experienced throughout this pandemic and its impact on our ability to staff schools safely. As we return to schools in person it will be important that we are equipped with the appropriate masks and the tools to ensure safety as we work together to mitigate the risk of Covid,” Muldrow wrote.
School board member ananda mirilli said the board has not yet held a publicly noticed meeting on the matter, so has not been able to discuss the plan as a board, but board members have been privy to district administration planning discussions. The thinking, mirilli said, was that COVID spread was driven by holiday gatherings, and waiting 10 days would allow for safer return.
“We needed to give folks 10 days. It’s not a guarantee,” she said. “If our theory is correct, if this is a spike because of the holidays, then there’s no reason to keep schools closed (beyond January 10). But if the numbers keep going up … we will have to sit down and talk about it.”
mirilli acknowledged that a January 10 return is “a best case scenario.”
“There are no ‘easy’ decisions relative to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic,” Superintendent Dr. Carlton D. Jenkins said in a statement earlier Thursday. “We recognize this decision will have a significant impact on our families, especially single parents and essential workers. However, we will continue to leverage our resources to support our families and ensure their safety and wellbeing.”
“Understanding the social, emotional and mental health benefits of remaining in-person has made this decision incredibly difficult,” Jenkins said. “It has always been our preference to have students learning in-person, in the classroom. Our ultimate responsibility is to ensure our return to school buildings for in-person instruction after winter break will be done in a safe and sustainable manner.”
COVID infections are setting records in Wisconsin and across the United States, with more than 1,000 new cases confirmed in Dane County just today.