Dear MMSD Families, 

Inauguration days have traditionally been an important and proud days for this nation as we celebrate the peaceful transfer of power. This year’s inauguration is historic, as we welcome our new President Joe Biden and the nation’s first woman, Black and Asian-American Vice President, Kamala Harris. In our schools, the inauguration, as well as the legacy of trailblazers such as the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be studied as living civics lessons. Accordingly, our teachers and staff will continue providing safe spaces for students to process and reflect on historic events happening in our world.

This year’s inaugural ceremonies are a great opportunity for families to reflect with students on how to make our community and this world a better place. Here are several resources to use for discussing protests, violence, justice and racism with children. 

Last week, we invited local health experts to a conversation online with MMSD families about our ongoing plans to safely reopen schools for in-person learning. From indoor air quality and ventilation in our buildings to plans for meeting the social emotional needs of students, families and teachers upon their return to schools, our knowledgeable panelists provided clarity to the community as we move forward through the school year. If you were unable to attend the live session, the presentation was recorded and you can access it here.

As our Future Ready referendum work continues, we encourage you to attend any of our online community feedback sessions, which are taking place now through February 4 on the MMSD Facebook Page. The input we receive from these sessions help us prioritize what’s next for the renovation of our school buildings, and assist us in understanding what our families would like to see addressed in the future. If you cannot attend a referenda session, please provide your input at mmsd.org/future-ready

I am proud to be part of a district which values and celebrates diversity. Our varied experiences and perspectives help make our school district, community and nation stronger. Thank you for your continued support, #MMSDFamily. 

Sincerely, 

Carlton D. Jenkins, Ph.D. 

View Dr. Jenkins video message honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday Jan. 18th

Update on testing, vaccines and board policies 

Testing 
We have a team working closely with local health experts who are leading local COVID-19 testing efforts, to continue developing our own internal testing capacity. We are working with a rapid antigen test called BinaxNOW, which uses a nasal swab and is able to give COVID-19 results in only 15 minutes. 

We currently have one site, Mendota MSCR Cares, participating in a voluntary 8-week research study pilot being conducted by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Researchers are hoping to learn more about the feasibility of using twice -asymptomatic testing as a way of keeping programs open more consistently.  We hope to be able to expand this pilot to a few additional schools in the coming weeks. 

We are also in the process of developing our capacity to use BinaxNOW tests for symptomatic testing at all MMSD schools. Our goal is to be able to offer rapid antigen testing for any in-person student or staff member who develops symptoms while at school. We expect this to begin in the next few weeks.  At the moment, our supply of tests is finite so it is difficult for us to anticipate exactly how long this will be available. We will continue to work with our health experts to consider all options. 

MMSD COVID-19 Vaccination Update
Many staff and families are wondering when vaccines may be available for teachers and other school staff. Recommendations for prioritizing who receives the vaccine come from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the Food & Drug Administration and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. (Learn more.)

Vaccines are currently being distributed to individuals in Tier 1a. In MMSD, Tier 1a now includes staff who provide direct, in-person healthcare to students. This includes nurses and nurse assistants, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language therapists and in-person special education staff. 

It is unknown exactly how long giving the vaccine to the first group will take. Who will be in the next tier, Tier 1b, has not been finalized by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (read their guidelines for prioritizing), but we believe that Tier 1b will include all other school staff and childcare staff. 

We do not anticipate the COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available to the general public until spring 2021 or later. As production of vaccines increase to the point of being widely available, we will be sure to communicate widely and frequently with our school communities.

Until a vaccine is distributed to the general public (and even for some time after), we must remain vigilant. Please continue to wear your mask, limit indoor gatherings, practice social distancing, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and stay home when you're sick.

The Department of Health Services recently announced a weekly newsletter the public can sign up for to get direct information about the COVID-19 response and vaccine rollout. Registration is now open.

New board policies 
On December 14, 2020, Public Health Madison & Dane County released new requirements and recommendations for school districts preparing to reopen. To satisfy new requirements, MMSD's Board of Education introduced new policies for hygiene, protective measures and cleaning on January 11 and plans to adopt them on January 25.

MMSD teachers featured on PBS

Iris Patterson, 5th Grade Teacher at Huegel Elementary, was featured in the article "Community Building in a Remote Classroom" on the PBS Wisconsin website last week, to discuss her experience with virtual learning this year and the 'Kid Nation' that she creates in her virtual classroom. The video also features Jessica Fleischmann, 7th Grade Math Teacher at Wright Middle School, discussing her experiences and providing words of wisdom. You can watch the video and read about Kid Nation here. 

Thank you, counselors!

Our counselors play an integral role in student success. National School Counseling Week is happening February 1-5 with a focus on the tremendous impact school counselors have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career. Join us in thanking your school counselor! To send your child's school counselor a note of appreciation, submit a shout out here. Follow us on social media to see all the shout outs and words of appreciation. 

17th annual Read Your Heart Out virtual event is Feb. 5  

Join us on February 5 at 9:30 a.m. on the MMSD Facebook Page for our very first Read Your Heart Out virtual ceremony featuring a live interview with Michelle Belnavis, former MMSD administrator and founder of Read Your Heart Out. Viewers also enjoy live storytelling and an African drumming demonstration. Throughout the month of February, schools across MMSD will participate in this celebration of National African American Parent Involvement Day. Traditionally parents, community members and volunteers read books, recite poetry or connect with students through visual or oral storytelling in the classroom during the event. However, due to COVID-19, readers will now engage with students virtually. If you're an African American parent or community member interested in recording yourself reading a book, telling a story or sharing a piece of spoken word on video, please reach out to your child's school. 

For more details, pictures and history about Read Your Heart Out in MMSD, visit bit.ly/ryhomadison.

Reminder: We need your feedback on our facilities projects

We are holding input and feedback sessions throughout January and February to hear from our students, families, staff and community about our next steps on all the facilities projects that will be funded by the referenda our community passed in November. You are welcome to attend any session, keeping in mind the focus of each session will be on the school listed, and all sessions will be recorded and available on Facebook and YouTube after the event. The dates are as follows: 

  • Memorial: Tuesday, January 26, 5:30-6:30pm
  • East: Thursday, January 28, 5:30-6:30pm
  • Capital: Wednesday, February 3, 5:30-6:30pm (this session is for Hoyt School neighborhood residents and community members)
  • West: Thursday, February 4, 5:30-6:30pm

We also encourage you to submit your feedback through the form on our website at mmsd.org/future-ready

New evening meal pick-up site added: East High School

Starting on Thursday, Jan 21st, East High School will offer meal box pick-up on Thursdays from 4-6pm at Door #2 in the small parking lot. View our full distribution schedule and learn about our meal boxes here. 

UW-Madison PEOPLE Program Information (Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence)

PEOPLE Program is a college prep and tuition scholarship program designed for low-income students, most of whom are the first in their families to potentially attend college. Their journey with us prepares them to be a viable college candidate, apply for admission to, and enroll at the University of Wisconsin System institutions, with an emphasis on University of Wisconsin-Madison. PEOPLE Applications open January 25th for current 8th grade students. More information about applications, information sessions, and program details is provided in this flyer.

Information Technology Academy Application Window Now Open (8th Graders)

Information Technology Academy (ITA) is a committed pre-college initiative providing students the opportunity to explore interests and reach their full potential through hands-on technology coursework, college preparatory academics, and personal wellness development that will support their successful completion of high school and matriculation into higher education. ITA Madison accepts applications from eligible eighth graders. It is a competitive program and only accepts 30 students per year. Accepted students participate in school-year and summer programming from the summer after 8th grade through high school graduation. Upon completion of ITA and acceptance to UW-Madison, ITA graduates are eligible to receive a four-year undergraduate tuition scholarship and continued support as part of the Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE) program. Learn more.

Early College STEM Academy application deadline extended to Feb. 5

10th graders: Are you interested in a future career in health and medicine, engineering, information technology or other STEM-related fields? If the answer is yes, apply online today for the Early College STEM Academy (ECSA) - an opportunity to take college courses and earn college credit in science, technology, engineering and math courses for free!

MMSD and Madison College are partners in presenting this dual enrollment program for students like you to take college classes in STEM fields with courses that can transfer to a four-year college or university at no cost to you or your family. This is a unique experience for those students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM-related fields including students of color and young women. 

You have until February 5, 2021 to apply online here. If you have more questions, please visit the ECSA STEM Academy webpage, connect with your school counselor or tune into an upcoming Facebook Live Session we're hosting on Wednesday February 3 at 6:00 p.m on the MMSD Facebook Page. This session is an interactive conversation with the community about MMSD secondary programs available to you and the learning opportunities you can explore in high school based on your personal goals. 

MMSD Athletic Statement

Throughout the 2020/21 school year, districts across the country have faced multiple challenges in planning a safe continuation of robust athletic programs for the benefit of students. In MMSD, education-based athletics play a significant role in the culture and communities of our schools, and the lives of many hard-working and dedicated student-athletes.

With consideration of current metrics, and our responsibility to keep students, staff, and communities safe, MMSD athletics will follow the lead of our current instructional model and continue with athletics virtually at this time. Similar to our instructional model, when COVID-19 conditions improve and metrics support a safe return to our buildings, MMSD will implement plans for a thoughtful and safe return of athletics to an in-person model.  

Read the full statement.

Tune in and participate during this month's radio show ¿Qué pasa en nuestras escuelas? 

During the radio show ¿Qué pasa en nuestras escuelas? on Thursday, January 21, 2021, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., we will present the topics of Biliteracy, Early literacy and High School Updates. We hope you'll tune in to La Movida Radio, 94.5 FM or 1480 AM or call (608) 321-1480 to participate. Listen to the promo.

Community Events

There are many amazing opportunities throughout the Madison community for our students and families. View some of these opportunities here

If you are interested in seeing your organization's event on this page, read about how you can do that here

In case you missed it

A conversation with health experts on Facebook Live: We held a session on Thursday, January 14, as part of a series of conversations on reopening MMSD Buildings, featuring school board members, central office leaders, health experts and district staff. If you were unable to tune in live, the session is available to watch on our YouTube channel here.

Project Recovery has a FREE, confidential, local support and education line to help people cope with COVID-19 and this stressful time. Learn more.

MMSD is working with the Madison Public Libraries to ensure all students have access to books during this pandemic. Learn more about how your students can get library books.

Special Education updates and resources for families during virtual learning

The Hmong Institute has a COVID-19 Resource Line, set up to close the language barrier gap and provide bilingual and bicultural support to support Southeast Asian and other refugees in Wisconsin affected by COVID-19 to better access resources and navigate the systems in their communities. Learn more about this in EnglishHmongKhmer or Tibetan

If you haven't already, you can opt in to receive texts from the district and your school(s) by texting the word YES to 67587 from your mobile device. 

We have 40 neighborhood food sites set up around Madison offering curbside meal service for all children 18 years of age or younger. Each site has pickup one day per week. Visit this page to learn more.

If you need a device exchanged, please contact your school's LMTS. Learn more about the process here

How to contact your school: While we're virtual, we want to make sure you're still able to contact your school. There are currently three ways you can get in touch with your school. Find them here.

How to get help during COVID-19, from Public Health and the City of Madison: View the "How To" community resources pages here.

The Foundation for Madison's Public Schools has been raising emergency relief funds and collaborating with community partners to ensure our MMSD and MSCR students, families and staff have the resources and financial support to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more here.   

NAMI Dane County has a free support line from 8:30-4:30pm and provides numerous support groups and classes for individuals impacted by mental health needs. Learn more

The City of Madison recently launched a free Financial Resources Hotline to help residents navigate financial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial Navigators provide free guidance, over the phone, to help residents access available programs and services to manage income loss and other financial concerns they may be experiencing.

Previous family newsletters are archived on this page on our website.