Dear MMSD Families,
I want to thank you for giving us your grace and understanding as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.  In addition, your support and feedback have provided invaluable insights as we continued to plan for our instructional mode of delivery for the third quarter based on the current health and safety conditions. 
Today, the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) announced our plan to start the 3rd quarter of the 2020-2021 school year by remaining in an all-virtual learning environment at all grade levels.  
Although we will begin 3rd Quarter virtual, if at any time conditions for bringing students and staff back safely improve, we will execute our plan to safely return students to in-person learning in a phased approach. In our plan, we will start with our earliest learners and bring grade levels or grade level groups back in two week increments, with the hopes of bringing back all students when the conditions permit.
Throughout the first two quarters, district staff have reviewed health and operational metrics, while making our buildings ready for in-person instruction with rigorous mitigation strategies and planned responses for confirmed cases. After weeks of careful analysis, consultation with health experts, and close consideration of a recent decline in local cases, the metrics still do not support a safe return to our school buildings at this time. 
Knowing how virtual learning impacts a number of our students has made each one of these decisions incredibly difficult. Although it is our preference to have all students learning in-person, connecting face to face with teachers and classmates, and benefiting from learning in a classroom environment, it is also our top priority to ensure when we do return to our school buildings, it will be done in the safest way possible, with metrics supporting a safe return.
The decision to remain in an all-virtual model for the start of the third quarter was a collaborative effort and centered around: monitoring and reviewing local public health metrics; in-depth consultation with scientists, health experts, focus groups, and internal as well as external advisory teams; feedback from district families and staff; close collaboration with Madison Teachers Inc. as well as our Assistant Principal/Principals (APP) group; close consideration of the safety of adults in multigenerational households; and concerns over the new COVID-19 variant. 
For those families who have children participating with MSCR Cares, and special education classes located in some of our school buildings, we are committed to providing the safest learning spaces possible. Therefore, we will continue adhering to the strict protocols and multiple layers of prevention and mitigation measures specifically developed to keep our students and staff safe.
Throughout this pandemic, the voices of our families have been an important consideration in our decision making. I want to thank you for the virtual learning feedback you have been providing us, which has assisted in refining our instructional and operational practices. I encourage all families to visit the MMSD Virtual Learning Website, with the latest information on our virtual learning adjustments and the district’s planning around returning to in-person learning. 
We understand families will have many questions. When visiting the district website, you will find a new tool called “Let’s Talk”, which is designed to provide our families a user friendly, streamlined communications platform for routing their specific questions to an appropriate MMSD staff member in a more timely manner.  The tool is mobile friendly, and we hope you find it a valuable resource. 
Additionally, we will be holding a Facebook Livestream on January 14, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. to provide an interactive real-time format to answer your questions. Some members of our health expert advisory panel will be joining us to share their insights and answer questions. To participate in the livestream, you can follow this link on the date and time of the livestream at:  MMSD 3rd Quarter Facebook Livestream.  
MMSD remains committed to our equity vision in our all-virtual learning design. Since the start of virtual learning, we have provided meals to families, and now distribute up to 50,000 meals a week. In addition, we have provided devices and WiFi hotspots to hundreds of students, while supporting all district staff and educators in virtual learning.
Moving forward, we will continue to refine our all-virtual learning experience by continuing to listen to the voices of our students, families and teachers. In addition, the MMSD team will continue working hard to plan for our eventual safe return to school buildings. 
Thank you for your continued patience, kindness and understanding. 
Carlton D. Jenkins Ph.D.