Updated July 17, 2020
As you know, on March 13, all Wisconsin schools were ordered to close to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Today, we have concerns as local cases continue to surge, and guidance from public health on what schools are required to have in place to reopen leaves us with limited options. We've also continued to hear your concerns. After deep consideration of all of these factors, we have determined that it would not be safe for us to reopen school buildings in September, even in a hybrid model. Therefore we have made the difficult decision to start the school year 100% Virtual Learning. Virtual Learning will take place at least through first quarter (October 30).
Thank you for your continued partnership as we've explored multiple models for reopening schools. We appreciate the feedback you've given us so far, and we'll continue to rely on your ideas as the school year progresses. If you haven't yet responded to the survey sent on Monday, we'd still like to hear your thinking for the future as conditions change. If you haven't responded or received an invitation yet, please know that we will be sending a fresh survey link for opportunities to complete it. So, please watch for an email or text.
As Interim Superintendent, the safety of everyone who enters our school buildings each day is my ultimate responsibility, and there can be no margin of error in decisions to keep our students, staff and our entire community safe. Moving forward, I will be working closely with incoming Superintendent Dr. Jenkins, who also has experienced and worked through many of the same issues around COVID-19 and school closures in the Robbinsdale, Minnesota School District.
We know that the virtual learning experience this fall will need to improve markedly from the far-from-ideal situation we were in through the spring. We are committed to that and will continue to work through the remainder of the summer to ensure that our staff have what they need to prioritize rigor, relationships and anti-racist instruction and to accelerate learning for all students in an all-virtual environment through first quarter (October 30. In the update we shared last week on our developing plans, we illustrated some strategies we have for accelerating learning. We are also committed to ensuring that students and families have what you need to make the virtual learning experience a positive one.
To accommodate the additional professional development (PD), we are planning to build additional PD days into the calendar, which would impact our start date. We plan to start no later than September 8 and will notify you of our decision as soon as possible.
As we work through the summer to ensure a richer and more consistent virtual learning experience, we also have a team that is continuing to plan for a hybrid model so we are ready to implement it once it is safe to do so. We will continue to assess the data and consult with health officials as we make decisions on a quarterly basis.
I recognize that not having students in school buildings presents numerous challenges and hardships. We are committed to partnering with you to support you and your students through this difficult time, with a special focus on our most marginalized community members.
This is a community issue and will need to be a community effort to keep our students engaged in learning and support their wellness and mental health. To this end, our partnerships with key organizations will be vital to ensuring that students have access to nutritious meals, access to the internet, access to health and safety resources and direct, daily access to teachers and other staff who can support them.
I know you have numerous questions, frustrations, concerns and worries. We do too. We remain committed to working closely with you and community partners to get through this together. In the coming days and weeks we will have a lot to work through and discuss.
We will stay in close contact with you as we approach September through weekly emails, our website and social media. As we make decisions for the future, our goal is to give you as much advance notice as possible so you can begin to plan for things like childcare and work schedules. It is our hope that our decision points will be two to three weeks prior to the start of each quarter.
Again, this is an incredibly difficult announcement. Our preference will always be to have students and teachers together in school buildings learning face-to-face every weekday. We hope that it will be safe to do so very soon.