How equity drives our decision-making during COVID-19 and at all times

Our district commitment to equity, specifically racial equity, has guided many of the decisions that we have made during COVID-19. We have embedded equity into our decisions by holding ourselves to a series of questions that our Equity Tool asks. This one page document was developed from the longer MMSD Equity Tool. The questions guide us to consider the students and families who are most impacted, the potential unintended consequences of our decisions and any plans we should be developing to mitigate those issues. 

We know that during complex times when information is changing on a weekly and sometimes daily or hourly basis we have to continue to honor the importance of responding quickly while also pausing long enough to incorporate equity into our decision making, and any feedback we are hearing along the way. There is no final destination per say to our equity work, but we want to share that it is central in all that we do, including through COVID-19. 

Some specific examples of decisions we have made with equity at the forefront include how we selected neighborhood meal sites, how we approached our grading policies, how we are working to get students devices and internet access, how to get instructional packets in multiple languages to families and how we developed our budget. 

Board approves three new projects in support of Black Excellence

We are excited to be collaborating with the community on a number of projects that advance and amplify Black Excellence. These newest projects that were lifted up thanks to the Black Excellence Think Tank and approved by the school board this week include:

  • Umoja Magazine's series of online writing workshops for youth
  • Urban Triage hosting workshops to give adults culturally relevant information on family dynamics, parenting styles, coping and healing during COVID-19
  • Kujichagulia Madison Center for Self-Determination organizing a variety of activities from June 15th through the 20th in celebration of Juneteenth together with families, youth and community members

You can hear more about these projects in remarks from Nichelle Nichols, Executive Director of Equity, Partnerships and Engagement, speaking in Wednesday's press conference.

WiFi and internet access update

In Wednesday's press conference, we gave an update on device distribution and internet access. Briefly, over 20,000 devices are now in students' hands and we have a system in place to respond to devices in need of repair. 

We've identified 1900 households that still may need access to reliable internet, and we're having ongoing discussions with the City of Madison with the goal of making long-term changes to allow for sustainable access for all Madison students. 

In the shorter term, we are partnering with Madison Public Library to use their Dream Bus in the near future as a free WiFi hub, we've ordered more than 1800 wireless hotspots to be mailed to households, and we installed long-range (up to 500 feet) wireless access points at five of our school sites, chosen for neighborhoods that have the greatest concentration of students without internet access: Leopold, Mendota, Toki/Orchard Ridge, Lincoln and Falk. These are live now.

These wireless access points will allow staff and students to access MMSD wireless internet from outside the building using their MMSD issued device from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can find more details, including social distancing guidelines that must be followed at these sites, here

You can learn more from Chad Wiese, Executive Director of Building Services, in his press conference remarks.

Planning for in-person commencement gathering at a later date

Earlier today we sent an update on graduation planning to our senior class, their families, and high school staff notifying them that details will be coming next week on virtual graduation and that we are now planning to have an in-person gathering in celebration of the class of 2020 at a later date once it is safe to do so.

Join us on Facebook Live on Wednesday, May 6

We're collaborating with Public Health Madison & Dane County to address your concerns about coronavirus, part of our Coping During COVID-19 Facebook Live series. Join us for a live session on Wednesday, May 6 at 2:00 p.m. featuring MMSD's Lead Nurse, Kari Stampfli and Public Health Nurse and Immunization Coordinator, Sarah Hughes of Public Health Madison & Dane County. Tune in as our healthcare leaders give insight on staying healthy and managing daily life, plus new updates on COVID-19 testing in Wisconsin and details on what Madison's lead public health agency is doing to keep you safe.

Ask your questions in the comment section during the presentation and our experts will answer them in real time.