Welcome back, students!

We hope you and your student are looking forward to the second "first day" of school on Monday.

Remember that next week will be all about connecting with teachers, building community and getting used to new routines, technology and software. We are easing into virtual learning and not jumping right into instruction. Next week your teachers will let you know when they will be holding virtual "office hours" and telling you how to best contact them with questions and concerns.

Wondering what we're expecting of students? 

Sisters Alma and Amelia made a video to explain what we expect from students. (We'll get to family and teacher expectations in a bit.)

Virtual learning expectations for students

What online learning platform will your student use? 

Kindergarten-4th grade students will use Seesaw or Google Classroom for their daily learning engagements. Your teacher will let you know. 

Grades 5-12 will use Google Classroom. 

Students will use Zoom to participate in video conferences with teachers and classes each day. 

First-time Zoom user? 

It's OK! We have all the tips you need to make your first virtual meeting a success. 

Video - MMSD Zoom for Students
 
MMSD Zoom Support Document for STUDENTS

Need help getting into Google Classroom? 

We've heard that some students who are using family-owned devices are having trouble accessing Google Classroom. Parents/guardians, Google has provided step-by-step instructions if you are experiencing this issue. If you continue to have trouble, we'll make sure you know who to reach out to next week to help you troubleshoot.

Teachers take attendance once a week on Friday before 4pm

Students will be considered in attendance if...

  • They submit an assignment at any time during the week or participate in virtual class gatherings during the week.  

OR

  • The student (or student's family, especially for younger grades) is in touch with the teacher at some point throughout the week. This contact includes email, phone, or attending either a virtual lesson or teacher's office hours. 

How many hours are students supposed to learn virtually?

4K*:    1.0 - 1.5 hours daily
K-2:    1.5 -2.0 hours daily 
3-5:     2.0-2.5 hours daily 
6-12:   3.0 hours daily

It is important to note that students should not be in front of technology for the entire time. Students should have a balance between online activities and activities outside of technology.

*Find daily learning plans and other resources for 4K / Early Childhood students and families here

Are there specific hours of the day that students are expected to be online for school? 

Work to create a schedule that works for your family. Ideally some of this time will overlap when teachers are available for additional support. 

8 tips for learning virtually  

This graphic offers eight helpful tips for students and families to not only survive virtual learning, but thrive at it! They include advice for limiting distractions, creating a quiet learning space, taking breaks, connecting with friends virtually, balancing screen time, keeping in touch with other parents and guardians, maintaining a schedule and scheduling time for fun. 

Staying in contact with your child's teacher(s)

If you or your student needs help understanding an assignment, reach out to the teacher with any questions you have. Teachers should let you know the best way to contact them. It might be email, Zoom or phone. 

We know many of you have questions about high school grading

Please know that we are actively problem-solving around high school grading and trying to sort out the many complexities that exist. The state Department of Public Instruction recently published grading guidance, which we will use in our decision-making. We want to ensure that students are not penalized because of school closures. This is not a simple or an easy decision. Thank you for your patience. We will share information when we know more. 

Need help with a digital device or software issue?

If you have not been in contact with your school about a device your student needs or if your student has any hardware issues (charging trouble, keyboard issue, broken screen and so on) or software issues (accessing instructional websites or applications or trouble logging into to their Chromebook), please go to our new Tech Support page and select your child's school from the drop-down menu. 

You will be prompted to send an email to your school's Library & Technology Media Specialist (LMTS), who will work with you and tech services, beginning on Monday, to help solve your issue. 

Starting Tuesday, April 7, we will also have a tech support phone number for you to call if you are not able to send an email. The phone number will be listed at the page linked above. 

Combat coronavirus-related bullying, racism

Incidents of coronavirus-related xenophobia and racism, including physical attacks, are on the rise. The following are just a few resources that address this topic. We encourage you to review them and have developmentally appropriate conversations with your child about the serious consequences of bullying and racism. 

It is important to avoid assumptions or stereotypes about who you think might be sick. Viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities, or racial backgrounds. A person's race does not make them more or less likely to be sick or to get sick.

NPR: New Site Collects Reports Of Racism Against Asian Americans Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Teaching Tolerance: How to Respond to Coronavirus Racism

Public Health Madison & Dane County: anti-stigma fact sheet 

PBS: "I am not a virus." How this artist is illustrating coronavirus-fueled racism

Inside Higher Ed: Scholars confront coronavirus-related racism in the classroom and community

Virtual learning expectations for families and teachers 

You have a very important role to play in your child's transition to virtual learning. Just as students have expectations to fulfill as we embark on this journey together, families and teachers do too. 

Families will...

  • Communicate with their child's teacher if they have questions about virtual learning. 
  • Do their best to establish a place for learning at home that minimizes distractions.
  • Set realistic goals for themselves and their child(ren). 
  • Work to establish a routine for learning at home while also being flexible when needed.  
  • Remind their child to check in with their teacher if they have concerns or need support.
  • Communicate with their child’s teacher if they have questions or if their child is sick or can’t participate in virtual learning.
  • Encourage their child to take frequent breaks and engage in non-school related activities.

You can find a list of the expectations for teachers as well, on our new virtual learning website, mmsd.org/virtual-learning.

See you next week!

Again, we are here for you as we enter this new way of learning together. Next week we are easing into virtual learning and not jumping right into instruction. The week will be all about connecting with teachers, building community and getting used to new routines, technology and software. Rest up this weekend, and we look forward to connecting with you and your student on Monday.

Dear Families,

I hope you are staying well and finding creative ways to connect with friends and family using social media and physical distance guidelines. As we are getting glimpses of spring, I also hope you get some time outside and that you remain safe and healthy.

I want you to know that we are here for you as we enter this new way of learning together. We know that virtual learning comes with challenges, and we're ready to face them along with you and your children with patience, compassion and out-of-the-box thinking. So thank you in advance for your partnership.

As difficult as this time has been, I've seen so many inspiring and touching acts of kindness and love for neighbors and strangers alike. As we practice social distancing, in some ways I feel we've been brought a little closer together as an #MMSDFamily.

This week our educators jumped right in to some pretty substantial professional learning from home, all while juggling their own personal demands, and I could not be prouder. At the same time our teachers and leaders are preparing for instruction, many more staff are working behind the scenes to secure our buildings, distribute meals and prepare digital devices to be delivered. This is truly an all-hands-on-deck, team effort, and I want to recognize our staff for that.

So, for next week: I know many of you are wondering about expectations, schedule, devices, attendance, grading, and other need-to-know information for next week. This Friday we'll be launching our new Virtual Learning website for students and families. We'll be sending another email at that time with all of these details so that you and your student go into Monday prepared. Please do review the update below about devices. This is an incredibly complex, multi-step process, and we'll have about 6,000 devices out for delivery tomorrow, with another big batch Friday. Our Technology Services department has done a great job of coming up with incredibly innovative solutions to the challenges of confirming needs and addresses with families and delivering the devices under the state's #SaferAtHome orders.

So thank you for your patience. Before I reach back out on Friday with details on virtual learning, here are some updates for this week.

In the meantime, here are some updates for this week.

Be well,

Jane Belmore, Interim Superintendent

P.S. We know this is a tough time for many families, financially. The Foundation for Madison's Public Schools has established two emergency relief funds. If you are in a position to donate, you can find that info toward the end of this newsletter.

If your child does not have a device by Monday, it's OK.

MMSD is teaming up with United Parcel Service (UPS) to have packaged devices delivered to every student who needs them. If you are concerned about your child having a device, know that this week schools are reaching out individually to any family who has not confirmed their device need and mailing address. Please be on the lookout for a phone call, text, or email from your school. If your student hasn't received what they need - whether it's a device, a power cord or other piece of hardware - by Monday, it's OK. Next week we are easing into virtual learning and not jumping right into instruction. We have time to work this out. And please know that if you have multiple students who need a device, they may arrive on different days. Early next week we will also be notifying you how you can submit a ticket for any devices needing repair or other issues and questions that come up around technology. 

Sample daily routine

This is a very high-level example of what your student's day should look like, starting next week. Again, more details will be coming on Friday and as your student begins to work with their teacher.

Enrichment resources

PBS Wisconsin At-Home Learning Broadcasts on The Wisconsin Channel
PBS Wisconsin, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and Milwaukee PBS, now has at-home learning programming for students and families, broadcasting a new weekday television schedule of programming with digital resources that connect to Wisconsin's state academic standards.
 
The special broadcast schedule will also be available to stream online at pbswisconsin.org/at-home-learning. That website also features corresponding free digital content for at-home learning and support for teachers navigating this new learning landscape.

Madison Public Libraries are offering virtual library cards for use online
If you don't already have a library card, complete this form and a new digital library card will be emailed to you. According to the Madison Public Library website, your virtual library card provides access to Wisconsin's Digital Library (which is home to more than 71,000 digital books, audiobooks, videos and more) through June 30, 2020. Read more.

Students: Share your learning-at-home experiences!

We want to know what it's like learning online. Tell us about the things you miss and how you're adjusting to social distancing. Send us a video or photo showing how you learn and socialize from home with your family and we may share your story with the MMSD community online.
 
Please upload your photo or video (jpeg,png,mov or mp3) using this simple online form, or email your media to us at mmsdnews@madison.k12.wi.us. You can also 'message' us your video through our main MMSD Facebook page. Remember to share your name, school and grade level. (We will be checking each student's photo-sharing settings in Infinite Campus. No photos/videos will be shared of students without the required permissions in IC, unless given written parent/guardian permission.) 

Join our April 8 Facebook Live event on managing stress, nurturing children

Supporting Our MMSD Community During COVID-19: Tune in to Facebook Live on April 8
On Wednesday, April 8 at 2pm, join Dr. Armando Hernandez, Assistant Director of Integrated Health for the Madison Metropolitan School District, with tips for families on managing stress in a healthy way, nurturing your children at home and focusing on strength and resilience during these times of uncertainty. Dr. Hernandez welcomes your questions - please comment on the video to have your questions answered. See the video live on our Facebook page.

Important community reminders during #SaferAtHome

"Stay at home. Vote by mail."
Officials are urging everyone who can to vote in the April 7 election by absentee ballot. You can get started at https://myvote.wi.gov/en-US/VoteAbsentee.

Foundation for Madison's Public Schools Resource Page 
The Foundation for Madison's Public Schools - the key philanthropic partner to MMSD - has mobilized responsive assistance for the schools, staff, scholars and families in our district. The Foundation has established two emergency relief funds to direct resources strategically in response to community-wide precautions around COVID19 - one for MMSD and one for MSCR. Each of these funds will help address the unique needs of these critical assets for the foreseeable future. To learn more, please visit this page and please, consider a gift to help one or both of these funds.

Have you filled out your 2020 Census form yet?
You can complete the Census from the comfort and safety of your home. Most households in the Madison area received Census instructions in the mail and many have already responded. Fill out the form online, by phone, or by mail.
 
Census data determines how federal funds are distributed for affordable housing, childcare, healthcare, education, transportation, and more. Help make sure everyone in Madison is counted by completing your form and reminding friends and family to complete theirs. Fill out your form online at my2020census.gov #MadisonCounts

Keep checking our website

Make 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.

Dear Families, 

I hope you are finding spaces of nourishment and rest as our modified spring break comes to a close. As each of us, individually and in community, are working to find our way in rapidly changing conditions, I wanted to provide you with a very important update regarding the distribution of devices for those students who need them for our Virtual Learning roll out.  

As many of you are aware, the district has struggled over the last couple weeks to develop a safe plan for distribution of devices to students who need them. Public health guidelines and orders from Governor Ever’s office in response to Coronavirus has forced the district to scuttle previous on-site distribution plans to adhere to rapidly expanding social distancing directives.   

To overcome this unique challenge, MMSD is teaming up with United Parcel Service (UPS) to have packaged devices delivered to every student who needs them.  The devices are an important component for students as MMSD transitions to Virtual Learning set to launch April 6.

To make this happen, UPS is providing significantly reduced pricing to MMSD for boxes, packaging materials, insurance, and verified delivery. 

Our plan is to start shipping devices by Wednesday so that all students have them by the end of next week.  Deliveries will require a “sign off” meaning the UPS driver will need to verify a person received the device at each household. This will be done following social distancing guidelines by using simple visual verification that the device was received by the appropriate family.

In preparation, over the next couple of days MMSD will be verifying mailing addresses for families who indicated they need a device to ensure delivery accuracy, as some addresses may be different from a typical household address. Additionally, the district is working with the City of Madison to identify school-age children who may be residing with their families at area hotels to ensure these students have the resources they need to continue learning.

If you have previously indicated that your child is in need of a device, please be on the lookout for an MMSD survey to verify your need and your address so that we can be sure you receive one.  Please know that we will make every effort possible to determine addresses for those families that did not receive or return surveys. 

From the beginning of this crisis, our focus has been the safety and well-being of our students, families and staff and we believe this to be the safest alternative to getting these important devices into our students hands so that every student has the resources to continue learning. 

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Jane Belmore
Interim Superintendent 

Dear MMSD Families,

I hope this email finds you well. As we gear up to begin professional development with staff next week on providing virtual learning to our students, I wanted to continue to provide updates on topics I know are important to you.

Device distribution

We are on track to tentatively be handing out Chromebooks to families next Thursday (elementary schools) and Friday (middle and high schools). As plans are finalized, I will be reaching out with more details. If you have had trouble accessing the survey, know that we are not turning any students away. If you request a Chromebook for your student, we will be following up through a variety of strategies to make sure that all of our students have access to a device and can connect to the internet. However, if you did receive the link to the survey but haven’t completed it, please do so. It gives us a baseline idea of how many devices we need to have prepared to distribute next week.

MMSD playgrounds are closed

Playgrounds on MMSD school property are closed. Under Governor Evers’ “Safer At Home” order, playgrounds are off limits. If you have questions, please review Madison & Dane County Public Health’s “Safer At Home” 101 poster.

Communicating with teachers and principals

If you urgently need to contact your school, all principal email addresses are posted here and on mmsd.org. Your child’s teachers may be reaching out to you as well via email, in particular once virtual learning begins. Please check your email on a regular basis, if possible, so you don’t miss important messages. Given these extraordinary circumstances, we are temporarily allowing staff to reach out to families via their personal cell phones. If you receive phone calls from numbers you do not recognize, please know that it may be a teacher calling.

We are in this together

None of us signed up for this, but we are going to get through it together. Virtual learning is causing us to approach teaching and learning in new and creative ways. Most importantly, we want our students to feel supported and positive about their learning. We want to set them up for success, and to do so we need to provide compassion, patience, and grace through this process as we learn together. I would ask the same for our teachers, who are working diligently to become proficient very quickly with new ways of teaching with technology.

In partnership,

Jane Belmore
Interim Superintendent
Madison Metropolitan School District

This morning Governor Evers announced that Wisconsin schools will be closed until at least April 24. He also issued a “Safer At Home” order that requires additional non-essential businesses to close and that bans non-essential travel. 

Educational institutions implementing virtual learning are considered essential, so we expect to move forward with our plans to ensure students have digital devices. We know many of you have questions about this. We hear you and we are working hard to finalize details. 

We’ve heard from some families that you did not receive the survey on Monday. If you did not receive the survey, please know that: 

  • We are only sending one survey per household, so not every parent/guardian will receive a survey. 
  • Some are reporting that the email sent Monday went into their junk/spam folders. If no one in your household received the email, please check there. 
  • There was an issue Monday evening with the software resulting in the text message not going out. We are working with our vendor to resolve this ASAP. 

We’ll also be posting this update on all school Facebook pages. 

We learned some positive news today! AVID, the prestigious non-profit college-readiness program designed to help students develop the skills they need to be successful in college announced today that Madison East High School has been recognized as an AVID National Demonstration School and re-validated through the 2022-23 school year.  The program places special emphasis on growing writing, critical thinking, teamwork, organization and reading skills. Congratulations to East High School!

As always, take good care of yourselves and others. We will get through this together.  #MMSDFamily
 

As you may have seen in the news today, Governor Evers announced that he will be issuing a “Safer At Home” order to further slow this pandemic, to prevent the spread of coronavirus and to take our loved ones' safety very seriously. 

Details about the order are expected to be released on Tuesday. We strongly encourage you to follow the order, as we must all do our part for the health and well being of our community.  When more information on the Governor’s order is provided to us, I assure you MMSD will be working hard to understand, communicate and respond to how this will affect MMSD operations as quickly as possible.

Virtual learning

We also recognize, in the days ahead, the need for additional resources for virtual learning. We are committed to doing all we can to ensure that our students continue to learn and have contact with their teachers and classmates. We will be working as much as possible on the varying needs of our students and families.  We will be providing more information in the upcoming days that will provide more details on MMSD's plan for virtual learning, set to launch the first week of April. 

Access to devices and internet 

Many of you have reached out to inquire about access to digital devices and internet for your students. We want to make sure that every student who needs a device gets access to one. Watch for a text today if you have not already received one asking you about your child’s access to a device and internet.  It is critical that families respond to this survey so that we are able to support you during this time. Our research office relies on a thorough outreach strategy in order to reach every family. 

Free, nutritious meals continue to be available  - children do not need to be present

Remember that free, nutritious meals continue to be available at sites throughout the city. Your children do not need to be present for you to pick up meals for them. Simply let the food service staff know how many lunches and breakfasts you need for the children you will be giving meals to. You will not be asked for any form of identification. We are handing out lunch and breakfast for the following day simultaneously, so families would only have to visit the site once daily. You can pick up meals by car or on foot – whatever is safest for you and your family.

We hear you

There is a lot of worry and anxiety in our community as our families ask important questions about graduation, grades, and a possible extended school year to name a few. Please know that we hear you.  Districts across the state are grappling with these same questions, and please know that we are preparing for multiple scenarios of how to care for our community.  

School districts are working together in close contact with our public health, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and other government officials to plan and prepare for what lies ahead.  As this crisis evolves, we will be resilient and make adjustments along the way to continue to serve our students and community to the best of our ability.  

P.S. “Stay at home. Vote by mail.” Officials are urging everyone who can to vote in the April 7 election by absentee ballot. You can get started at https://myvote.wi.gov/en-US/VoteAbsentee

Dear Families,

Thanks for your patience as we work through the events that have been occurring and planning for what lies ahead. We hope you and your family are staying well, and we know that many of you are looking forward to a Virtual Learning experience for your child. 

We want to share some important information with all of you as we prepare to transition to Virtual Learning. While we do not know how long our buildings will be closed, we want to be prepared for 4K-12 MMSD Virtual Learning for as long as it is necessary.  

We are currently planning for virtual professional learning and planning time for all 4K-12 teachers and staff the week of 3/30-4/3 with an anticipated start date for students on Monday, April 6th. We will also be gathering student devices from buildings and preparing for times when families of students in grades k-4 can pick up a district device in a “grab and go” format that still reinforces social distancing.  As we continue to work on our plan to transition to Virtual Learning, it will be a requirement that all students have access to Google Education.

Please know that early next week we will be updating you on a plan from Student Services that provides students with disabilities access to the regular education curriculum, and to the extent possible, provide specially designed instruction to meet IEP goals and practices in accordance with state and federal regulations.

Additionally, in preparation for this transition a survey will be sent to families on Monday, March 23 asking about their access to both digital devices and the internet. It is critical that families respond to this survey so that we are able to support our families during this time.

In the days ahead, we will be providing you information that will help you make the transition to a Virtual Learning environment as easy as possible. This information will also be posted at mmsd.org/COVID19, located on the MMSD website, when it is available. 

Thank you for your patience and understanding. The MMSD team continues to work around the clock to prepare for the transition to Virtual Learning and to further plan and prepare other challenges that lie ahead.  It has been a complex path to navigate, and we all have some distance to go, and I want you to know how much we appreciate all the support you have shown us along the way. Take care of yourselves and I hope you have a peaceful weekend.

Sincerely,

Jane Belmore

Interim Superintendent

The uncertainty and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is stressful for all of us, most of all, our children. Our district will continue to provide you with updates as more information becomes available, and we encourage you to keep visiting mmsd.org/COVID19 for the latest updates.

Monitoring your family’s health

- If you or a family member develops fever and cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice and isolate yourself. Public Health Madison and Dane also has information regarding “What to Do if You are Sick or Possibly Exposed”. 

- If you have questions about your student’s Medicaid benefits or renewal, call Guillemina Montes the MMSD Family Health Liaison at MMSD at 608- 576-1197. (She also speaks Spanish). 

- According to the Harvard Coronavirus Resource website, you should also prepare to have the necessary health supplies at home. This includes at least a 30 day supply of any needed prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and other health supplies. You can find a list here, along with who to contact locally if you have questions about COVID-19

Spring Break week changed to March 23-27

- Last Friday, as part of a strategy to stem the spread of coronavirus, the School Board voted to move Spring Break to next week, the week of March 23. Just after the vote, Governor Evers announced that all Wisconsin schools would close by Wednesday, March 18. 

For families and students, the change in Spring Break week likely doesn’t have a big impact since schools are closed anyway. But we wanted to make sure you are aware since it does make a difference for school staff. School staff are not required to work over Spring Break. If your child’s teacher or principal has been communicating with you, please know that they may not be available next week. 

If your family has plans to travel over Spring Break, please do follow health advisories on travel. You can find travel guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here

Free healthy meals for kids (including over Spring Break)

- As a reminder, MMSD is providing free, nutritious meals for kids daily at sites around Madison. A take-home breakfast and lunch will be provided in pre-packaged paper bags at each drop-off site, once per day. Find pick-up locations and times here.

Assessment updates during school closures

- Find the most recent information regarding ACT Aspire, Forward Exam, Advanced Placement Exams, and other assessments here

Status of High School Prom and other spring events

- As we have received updated guidance from MMSD, Public Health, and both city and state  government officials over the past several days, we will be unable to hold large group school events. Unfortunately, this does include prom, which is now canceled. 

We know Prom is an important aspect of a high school experience and we are sad to have to cancel. We are very sorry that our students are missing out on so much as we face these unprecedented challenges, but the health and safety of our community remains our top priority. 

We realize that you have questions about the status of many other spring events. As a district and schools, we are reviewing each of these events. Individual high school websites are great places to learn more. 

Thank you for your time, patience and support. It is during times like these that we are all reminded of how important it is to come together as a community, to address the challenges this crisis presents us today, and plan for what lies ahead tomorrow. 

Sincerely,

Jane Belmore, Interim Superintendent 

Throughout this situation MMSD has been working with other officials in the city and county.  Childcare for health care professionals and first responders has been identified as a community priority. Please see the message below from UW Health.  Thank you and stay safe. 


We recognize the recent announcement to close all Wisconsin public schools indefinitely creates challenges for many families. To support employees during this time, UW Health is launching a program called Matching with Care. This program is intended to match all available caregivers in local communities, ranging from high school or college students to local teachers or day care providers, with UW Health staff who need emergency backup care services. 

We are asking you to consider yourselves, a family member (ex: high school or college student) or close friend (ex: local day care provider or teacher who may be out of work at this time) to complete a short survey, indicating your availability to provide care for those in need. Human Resources will review results from this survey and match it with the request of a UW Health employee in need of childcare services. Based on available matches, caregivers and staff members will be contacted directly.

Every attempt will be made to match all UW Health staff in need with an available caregiver and priority will be given to the most critical patient care staff in need of care. Please keep in mind when arranging care with the match, UW Health employees are responsible for making the agreed upon payment directly to the caregiver. Complete the survey 

If you have any questions regarding this program, please contact UW Health Human Resources by calling (608) 263-6500.

As we have received updated guidance from MMSD, Public Health, and both city and state  government officials over the past several days, we will be unable to hold large group school events. Unfortunately, this does include prom, which is now canceled. 

We know you might feel disappointed, upset and sad because this is not how you envisioned your last few months of high school.  We know Prom is an important aspect of a high school experience and we are sad to have to cancel. We are very sorry that our students are missing out on so much as we face these unprecedented challenges, but the health and safety of our community remains our top priority. 

We realize that you have questions about the status of many other Spring events.  As a district and schools, we are reviewing each of these events. Our individual school websites are great places to learn more.  As a district and as schools we feel an urgency to send this information about Prom due to the planning and financial commitment that comes with attending. 

We will do everything we can to help facilitate positive, social opportunities for our students whenever and however, it is safe for us to do so in the coming months. Thank you for your understanding. We are all in this together.

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