Dear Families, 

As I reported yesterday, Governor Evers ordered all K-12 public and private schools to remain closed for the remainder of the school year. The decision is in the best interests of our students, families and staff. In case you missed it, here's the letter we sent families last night about this news. 

We know there are a lot of unknowns at this point, and you likely have questions about things like summer school or picking up instruments and personal items. We're working hard to plan for a variety of scenarios and solutions and want to thank you for your patience. In the meantime, we have some key pieces of information to share with you today in this newsletter. One of those items is an update on the superintendent search. I wanted you to know that my contract with the district runs through July 2020, and the school board and I will be having conversations about how I can help during the transition.  

And finally, I know that yesterday's news was very sad for many of our students, and that along with being isolated and away from friends for so long can come stress and depression. A really great resource just came on my radar this morning. It's a Calming Zone site, developed by O'Keeffe Middle School's Jamie Domini to help students explore strategies for dealing with challenges and regulating their emotions. I also wanted to remind you of the community and mental health resources on our website, as well as this first-of-many Facebook Live sessions we held on Being Well. We are committed to doing everything we can to raising our students' spirits and keeping them safe and strong. 

Have a restful weekend, 

Jane Belmore, Interim Superintendent 

A message from the East High School Black Student Union (BSU)

Here is a video message from East's BSU reminding everyone how important it is to treat each other with kindness and respect on social media as we navigate virtual learning.

Sign up for Saturday's virtual HBCU college tour!

High school students can join Chicago HBCU Alumni Alliance, Incorporated this Saturday for a virtual College Tour right from your home! You'll get to see visuals and hear more about historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Register for this free event.

Update: MMSD Board of Education to reopen superintendent search in May

MMSD Board members will reopen their search for the district's next Superintendent in May, after Dr. Matthew Gutiérrez, who was chosen early this year to be the Superintendent, decided he could not leave his current school community during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We are indeed moving forward," said Board President, Gloria Reyes. "The hiring of a new superintendent is the most important decision that a Board will make." This week, the Board met in a closed session to talk about the search and interview process. They will continue to work closely with the same Illinois-based consulting firm, BWP & Associates on the selection of a new leader for the district. Their plan is to reopen a nationwide search in May for one month and begin interviewing the best and brightest candidates in June. 

As the Board works through this new superintendent search, we appreciate the patience and continued support from our MMSD school community. The district will likely identify opportunities for you all to be a part of the search. Stay tuned.  

Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Threats of School Violence

We know that there have been recent new articles related to the potential increase in child abuse and neglect with school closures. We also know that mandated reports are much lower at this time, given that schools are not in session and educators are among the most likely to report child abuse and neglect.  

We have been in contact with Child Protective Services and Dane County Human Services to discuss our protocols during school closure, and we have decided that we will continue to use our regular system for mandated reporting.  As detailed in Wisconsin Act 81, all MMSD staff are mandated reporters so if they suspect that a student is being abused and/or neglected, they are still required to make a report. 

Also, as a reminder, Wisconsin Act 143 required all school district employees to report any threat -- whether spoken, written or symbolic -- to law enforcement (this includes Educational Resource Officers) if they believe that there is a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of others. 
 
Both Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Threat of School Violence reporting procedures can be found on the District emergency procedures.

Teaching students about COVID-19 

Many of our teachers have been using these presentations to teach students about COVID-19 and what they can do to stay safe and healthy. Students learn what a virus is; how they are spread; how to wear, wash and replace face masks; how to properly wash hands; what happens when people get sick with COVID-19 and how to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe. The version for middle and high school students goes into more detail on social distancing, what to do if someone at home gets sick and other topics. 

We wanted you to have them as well if you would like to go over the content with your child. 

Elementary slide deck (Spanish
Middle and high school slide deck (Spanish coming soon) 

Our weekly virtual press conferences answer many of your question

As we shared in yesterday's email, given this unprecedented time, we have started holding virtual press conferences each week. This is an opportunity for reporters to ask questions of the school board and administration. You can watch the conferences live on this channel. They are scheduled for Wednesdays at 3 p.m. In this week's press conference, we answered questions about grading, devices, special education, summer school and more. 

Give or get free and confidential help

Find the latest MSCR Free Fitness Activities

As a reminder, Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR) is hosting a series of free enrichment videos for kids and adults that you can do from home. In addition to enrichment, there are a variety of free fitness videos and activities you can do from home. Here are some of the latest: 

Find links to all the art, enrichment and fitness videos here.

In case you missed it...

It's Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin

Severe weather can be a scary topic for many, especially in a time of already heightened anxiety about safety, but it's important to think and plan ahead for severe weather and to do so in a calm, reassuring way. It's comforting for kids to know that in an emergency, your family has a plan. (Here are some tips on talking to children about severe weather.)

While the state has canceled the tornado drill originally scheduled for this week, we are encouraged to spend some time talking with children about how to prepare for and what to do in extreme weather. 

There are lots of free resources online to support educators and families in teaching children about severe weather - most of them in English only, with some exceptions. 

We wanted to share some of our favorites here:

Ready.gov/kids has games, tips and tools for kids, teens, families and educators, including some resources in Spanish and other languages (not Hmong). 

FEMA's YouTube channel features a variety of videos for younger kids on severe weather, making a family communications plan and emergency kit and other topics. 

Weather.gov/wrn/spring-safety has a bunch of information, like this video on thunderstorm types, for all ages on tornadoes and other springtime weather hazards. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created Ready Wrigley PDF activity books in English and Spanish to help kids understand types of extreme weather and to help children learn the importance of being prepared.

Dane County Emergency Management offers advice in this document for creating a family emergency plan. You can also sign up to receive emergency notifications via text or email to be alerted to potentially life-threatening and public safety emergencies in Dane County at 

We'd love to share any photos this week of you and your family learning about and preparing for severe weather, whether you're reading a book together, creating an emergency kit, watching a video together or coloring a picture. Send them to mmsdnews@madison.k12.wi.us or post them to Facebook or Instagram and tag us (facebook.com/MadisonSchoolsWI, instagram.com/madisonschools)! 

Please also remember that we have a growing library of online resources on Being Well and Mental Health

Keep checking our website

Be sure to continue to check mmsd.org/COVID-19 for the latest updates on virtual learning, food and device distribution and more. The site is updated every day.