In a press release Friday morning, the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) announced that due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in the City of Madison and Dane County, and for the safety of its students, staff and families, the district will start school in an all-virtual learning environment this fall.
On Thursday, Madison Teachers Inc, the union representing Madison teachers, called for an all-virtual start to the year.
“On March 13, we made the incredibly difficult decision to close schools for the safety of our students, staff and families and to prevent further spread of COVID-19,” said Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore said in a statement. “Today as local cases continue to surge, and the ongoing analysis of public health data to provide guidance on how to implement requirements they expect schools to have in place to open safely, has left us with limited options. As Interim Superintendent, the safety of everyone who enters our school buildings each day is my ultimate responsibility, there can be no margin of error in our decisions to keep students, staff as well as our entire community safe.”
MMSD has been preparing three options for the 2020/2021 school year: all-virtual learning, all in-person learning, and a hybrid model that is a blend of both in-person and virtual. Belmore added that moving forward, decisions will be made on a quarterly basis considering all three options.
“MMSD will continue its planning for a return to in-person learning as soon as it is determined to be safe for students and staff to do so,” Belmore said in the statement. “Recognizing this is a community effort, we will be providing as much advance notice to families as possible so that they can plan accordingly for things like childcare and work schedules. We are committed to informing families as far in advance as we are able, therefore it is our hope that decisions will be made two to three weeks prior to the start of each school year quarter, and it is our hope that conditions improve enough for us to begin to return in some capacity November 3.”
Belmore added in the release that MMSD recognizes the challenges that an all virtual start to the school year has on the community, and during this time the district will work proactively to partner with our families to support students when not engaged with in-person instruction.
The release said MMSD has spent months developing its all virtual learning and hybrid models and remains committed to its equity vision in its plan designs by putting its most marginalized communities at the forefront. Since the start of virtual learning, MMSD has provided 225,000 meals to families, distributed 11,00 devices and supported all district staff and educators in virtual learning.
The release said the MMSD planning team will be working on the following for its start-of-school plan:
- Continued partnership and planning with community agencies to increase childcare support
- Providing teachers with expanded training in online education to better meet student needs
- Providing students with additional training at the start of the year to better support their virtual learning experience
- Providing increased online support for parents to make it easier for them to participate in the education of their students and maximize the use of the online enrollment process to eliminate in-person enrollment events and provide individualized supports virtually
- Customized planning by Principals to ensure the safest possible reopening
- Continue providing free meals at the current distribution locations
- Continue its work to provide strong rigorous virtual learning instruction and planning for the hybrid learning model
- Continue to assess available data and make adjustments accordingly knowing that families need lead time to make arrangements should we change our learning model
- Finalizing a process to determine limited face to face instruction for students with disabilities whose programs can not be implemented virtually