All schools in Dane County must begin the year using exclusively online, distance learning for grades three through 12 under an emergency order issued by Public Health Madison Dane County late Friday.
The order, which takes effect Monday, also requires schools serving kindergarten, first and second grades to provide a virtual learning option for families. The order applies to both public and private schools.
“Moving students in grades 3-12 to virtual learning is not a step we take lightly, as schools provide critical services, and in-person instruction offers unparalleled opportunities and structure for students and parents,” Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, said in a statement. “Given our current case count, we believe moving students in grades 3-12 to virtual learning is necessary for the safety of our community.”
The announcement of the order notes that “a number of systematic reviews have found that school-aged children contract COVID-19 at lower rates than older populations. This is particularly pronounced among younger school-aged children.”
In order for PHMDC to consider reopening grades 3-5 for in-person instruction, Dane County must sustain a 14-day average of 39 cases per day for four consecutive weeks. In order for PHMDC to consider reopening grades 6-12 for in-person instruction, Dane County must sustain at or below a 14-day average of 19 cases per day for four consecutive weeks. Should Dane County’s average number of cases per day over a two-week period increase above 54, PHMDC would consider closing all schools to in-person instruction, according to the announcement.
As of Friday, Dane County is averaging 42 cases over the past two weeks.
Many Dane County school districts had already announced an all-virtual start, including Madison, Monona Grove, Sun Prairie, Verona, Mt. Horeb, and others. Most private schools had announced that they would return to in-person education.