March 8th - Virtual asynchronous days, previously held on Wednesdays, will move to Mondays for all K-12 students (whether receiving instruction virtually or in-person) beginning.
As we continue to monitor COVID-19 metrics and receive guidance from local public health experts, we will later determine when other grade levels can transition safely to an in-person learning model.
Next week, you will receive an important survey asking you to indicate your intentions on whether your student(s) will be returning to in-person instruction or remain learning in an all-virtual model. It is important for you to return this survey, as the information it provides will help us better prepare and plan for our phased return to in-person instruction.
We are grateful for the support, grace and understanding our students, staff, families and community have provided us throughout this pandemic. Thank you for your continued partnership as we navigate these challenging times.
Safety in our Buildings
We've made several adjustments in preparation for students and staff to return to buildings, whether that be soon or next year. Some of those are outlined below:
In November our school board approved a proposal for nearly $300,000 in medical-grade filters in all our buildings' air handling systems. In addition, we have adjusted our HVAC settings so that we are getting as much fresh air into buildings as possible. In winter, this means we need to burn a bit more natural gas to keep buildings warm, but we are doing everything we can to bring as much fresh air in.
Every 10 minutes, the entire volume of each classroom's air is circulated and filtered. We have adjusted the system to allow for even more fresh air to enter the system by flushing the air two hours prior to 6:00 a.m. and for 2 hours again at the end of each day.
Stagnant water can be a concern when a building's water systems are not in use, so we have followed procedures for ensuring sure our water is safe. Based on recommendations from the CDC, Public Health Madison & Dane County, and ESPRI (Environmental Science, Policy, and Research Institute), MMSD has developed an Unoccupied Domestic Water Flushing Procedure that is being performed every two weeks during periods when buildings have little water usage.
This procedure is designed to flush out all stagnant water from the plumbing system. Shower heads, faucets, sprayers, and aerators are also cleaned during each plumbing system flush.
Navigating and Signage
While teaching and practicing healthy behaviors such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, and covering coughs will be our primary means of maintaining healthy environments, signage will supplement these efforts and serve as reminders of healthy practices. Some signs contain information in three languages English, Hmong and Spanish. These will be displayed at building entrances and in areas close to building entrances, Welcome Centers and main offices.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Custodial and Maintenance staff will focus on “high touch-point” disinfection cleaning as the first priority. High touch-point areas include desks, tabletops, doorknobs, railings, light and water fixtures, restroom stall door locks, elevator buttons, countertops, chair arms, and phones.
Classroom floors will be wet mopped a minimum of twice per week and spot mopped daily as needed. All classrooms have been outfitted with classroom cleaning kits which will be restocked on a daily basis by our custodians.
TBD. We are working out the details now.
This is TBD. Sites are in the planning phase to see if we remain in block or transition back to the 7 period day.
We are working out the details now.
If this is the model, a teacher will have a microphone and will be able to teach students online while interacting with students that are live. It is not for sure that this is the model that we will use for instruction.
It is not recommended that students leave for lunch at this time. However, we are working on plans to ensure that students can safely eat their lunch in the classroom or with staggered seating in the cafeteria.
We are in the planning phase. We will use schools to help problem-solve this question.
Each school is aware of many of the students that are not engaged virtually. Each site has created systems to continue to search for/contact these students and their families to attempt to re-engage the students. We are also still working on connectivity concerns to support re-engagement as well.
That is our hope. We know that screen time/virtually learning has created time constraints to focus on the scope and sequence of AP curriculum. Our teachers are doing the best that they can to properly prepare students for the AP exam.
We know many of our students, families and staff are carrying a great deal of anxiety and stress as we approach a decision, whether the decision is to return in person or continue with virtual learning. We recognize that both scenarios involve adapting to significant changes. Whatever decision is made, we will be ready to support the needs of our staff, our students and their families.
Our goal is to support students' needs while limiting the number of environments staff and students are exposed to. When that is not possible, staff should follow all district prescribed Health and Safety procedures, including using the medical-grade PPE issued by Student Services and obtained through the school Health Office.
This is a rapidly changing situation, so we recommend consulting the latest information released by Public Health Madison Dane County.
As we begin a phased return to in-person instruction, we need to shift from Wednesday to Monday asynchronous learning based on recommendations from health experts to allow for three consecutive days of deep cleaning of facilities when students are not present.
March 12th - Last day to announce Spring sports timelines
March 26th - Last day to determine in-person activities plan for alternate Fall sports, all activities and athletics will be delivered virtually through this date
April 19th - Earliest WIAA contact day for Spring Sports
Like in-person instruction, we plan to use a phased approach to restarting in-person athletics and all co-curricular activities. Our medical advisory team reviews and provides feedback weekly on appropriate timing and mitigation strategies. We also have a coach and student advisory that is providing feedback.
This will be informed by our medical advisory and recommendations and requirements from CDC, PHMDC, and WIAA. It is possible that activities will occur when not all HS students have returned to in-person instruction. Current guidance from CDC and our medical advisory is that in-person instruction should be prioritized over extracurricular activities, including sports and school events, to minimize risk of transmission in schools and protect in-person learning.
Based on the schedule and cohorting of groups there may be restrictions on who gets to participate in activities on certain days depending on if they are in-school that day or coming from home and gathering size limits, activities taking place unattached to the in-person school day reduce contacts and gatherings so may be feasible.
We are planning on competitions for spring sports and will make determinations regarding fall sports in-person activities and competitions by March 26th at the latest, and it will be specific to sport.
Fall sports will continue and begin virtually through 3/26, decisions on in-person practices and games will be made by 3/26 at the latest and be sport specific.
We plan to start in-person with the WIAA start dates 4/19 and provide the most traditional season available in terms of practices and competitions. Details and timelines will be shared by March 12th at the latest regarding specific spring sports.
If we do not return to in-person activities prior to the end of the WIAA calendar, dates we will provide in-person contact days as allowable near the end of the school year. This will be communicated by March 26th at the latest and it will be specific to sport.
We are working on identifying similar ways to phase in all co-curricular events focusing on outdoor opportunities similar to Spring sports.
Phased approach, field conditions and weather more likely to be usable, acclimatization and resumption of activity is gradual. Spring sports also lost the Spring 2020 season, so we are focusing on them while still giving all students opportunities this school year to reconnect in person with their desired activities.
The district looked closely at all the metrics available at the time of the decision. The following were factors in making this decision:
- As recommended by Public Health of Madison-Dane County, these metrics include the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Dane County. We want to see the 14-day average of new cases to be 43 or fewer per day before returning to in-person instruction for grades 6-12. Through January 4th, the 14-day average was 168 per day.
- Dane County had a high positivity rate of 5.8% (Public Health’s benchmark is 5% or below)
- Dane County has a large number of cases (32%) over the most recent 14 day period who don't know where they could have gotten COVID-19 (Public Health’s benchmark is 20%)
- Dane County Public Health is only able to contact 45% of positive cases within 48 hours. (Public Health’s benchmark is 85%)
Also, a group representing high school guidance staff, assistant principals, central office staff, building services and nursing services staff met to determine what can be done as well as the pros and cons of any decision. This group recommended that the PSAT not be given in support of the safety of students and staff.
National tests scores have been waived for admission by the majority of colleges and universities in the United States. As the tests are currently optional, this also factored into the decision.
In conversations with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, there is a way to seek qualification without taking the PSAT. This process is summarized below:
Go to the NMS website (https://www.nationalmerit.org/). Click on the “Resources” tab on the right. You will find a link to Alternate Entry information. The document outlines exactly what students need to do in order to be considered for a National Merit Scholarship. Please pay close attention to timelines!
One requirement is to take the SAT anytime between August 2020 and June, 2021. You can register for the SAT through the College Board website:
On this site students will find locations where the test will be given. Students may take the SAT at any location that is giving the test. All fees will be paid by the student.
There is a difference between the ACT that is given on Saturdays (National tests) and the ACT given during school hours in the late winter (State-mandated test). While the actual test is not different, the ability of the district to provide students with the test is different.
National test dates: These dates require student registration and payment; the district provides the space to take the test. These are optional tests. These can be registered for on the ACT website: https://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration.html
Currently, the national ACT test is not being given in MMSD due to the pandemic. When MMSD schools reopen, these tests will likely resume as soon as possible. If students wish to take the ACT prior to reopening, part of the ACT registration process involves indicating the location where students will test.
State Mandated test dates: The State of Wisconsin requires all high school juniors to take the ACT+Writing exam. As of this date, this requirement has not been changed; it would require an act of the state legislature to do this.
The district is continuing to plan as if the state-mandated ACT will be given. This means that plans are being worked on for testing on one of the dates offered by the state: March 9, March 23 or April 13. Please note: the ACT cannot be given virtually, it must in person. Given the current decision to continue providing virtual instruction, at least the March 9th date will not be possible. If the district returns to in-person instruction prior to any of these dates, everything will be ready for giving the ACT.
If the district is still using a virtual instruction model on the April 13 test date, other options for providing all juniors the ACT are being considered. This includes a fall test date, at no cost to students.
Your student’s high school counselor is likely the best place to go for specific information. Additional questions can be sent to Tim Peterson, Director of Assessment, at: email@example.com