A virtual press conference was held on 4/29/2020. The video is embedded above for your convenience, however if you would like to jump directly any particular topic you can click a link below to jump to that point in the video on YouTube.
A virtual press conference was held on 4/22/2020. The video is embedded above for your convenience, however if you would like to jump directly any particular topic you can click a link below to jump to that point in the video on YouTube.
Important Calendar Change: April 27 Professional Development Day Moved to May 13
The professional development day, originally scheduled for Monday, April 27, has been moved to Wednesday, May 13 to better support students and families. This means April 27 will be a regular (virtual) school day. There will be no school for students on Wednesday, May 13.
In order to meet the needs of our students it is essential that teachers are able to come together to reflect on and adjust their teaching practices in a virtual environment. It is important that we act on the feedback we are receiving and adjust virtual learning based on what our students and families are saying.
School buildings and grounds are closed; however, it is permissible for staff and adult volunteers to enter school grounds to maintain school gardens, as an allowed outdoor activity or essential function under Governor Tony Evers "safer at home" order.
If you are asked by your school to assist with the school garden, please keep in mind that we will need to make adjustments to how we garden at the schools.We are requesting that you make the following adjustments:
Don't bring your children or anyone else with you; no students will be allowed at garden sites
Stick to the schedule your school provides: there should be no more people than there is space to effectively execute appropriate social distancing. No more than 2 to 4 people should be at the garden site.
Practice physical distancing and keep at least 6 feet away from people you don't live with.
Don't go to the gardens if you or someone in your family feels sick.
Strongly consider using cloth face coverings while in the school garden.
Remember to wash your hands before and after gardening.
Wear gloves and bring your own tools to use in the garden.
If this is not possible, and staff and volunteers use common tools, clean and disinfect them, handle and all, before and after use.
Clean and disinfect all gates, shed handles and all other communal spaces and equipment that people touch regularly after using.
Thoroughly wash all produce you harvest from the garden!
In developing these safety guidelines, we want to make sure that our volunteers are safe when working at school gardens. We realize how important planting and growing foods are for our school communities. Thank you for following these precautions.
Foundation for Madison's Public Schools says Thank You to partners who have pitched in to help the staff, scholars and families of MMSD during the COVID-19 crisis. See the video.
Support MMSD and MSCR through the Foundation for Madison's Public Schools
To support the unique needs of MMSD and MSCR during the COVID-19 crisis, please consider a gift through our fundraising partner, the Foundation for Madison's Public Schools. To learn more, visit this page.
In March, the Foundation partnered with MMSD to raise $15,000 to produce, package and mail one million pieces of academic enrichment materials to 19,000 K-8 students. Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore has now asked the Foundation to partner with her to raise $50,000 more to ensure all of our 27,000 MMSD students have Wifi access. So far, the Foundation has raised $13,100 toward this goal. We have also raised $4,900 for MSCR.
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.
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.
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:
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.
As you’ve likely seen in the news by now, today Governor Evers has ordered all public and private K-12 schools to remain closed for the rest of the school year. He also directed the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to extend the Safer at Home order until 8 a.m. on Tuesday, May 26, or until a superseding order is issued. You can read the order here.
The Governor’s decision is in the best interests of our students, families and staff. I also recognize that it is very sad news for our school communities. My heart aches for students and staff who will not be together to finish out the school year, in particular our graduating class and those transitioning to middle or high school. Our senior class has already had to sacrifice a lot, and their resiliency and focus is something I will always appreciate and never forget.
While we have room to improve, not only as a school district but as a community, Virtual Learning is getting stronger every day. We know that 24,000 students are successfully accessing the internet and we are working hard to ensure that this is the case for every single student. Although not the preferred method for all students, MMSD Virtual Learning is becoming more robust and we will continue to expand and grow our capabilities to provide meaningful learning for every student from home.
We know that as a result of this announcement, there will be many questions, and I remain committed to communicating decisions and information to you as soon as I can. 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, and in the process, many questions that families have are addressed during this time. You can watch the conferences live on this channel. They are scheduled for Wednesdays at 3 p.m. You can find this week’s press conference here. (We are currently working on a solution to have these live-interpreted and closed-captioned.)
In closing, I want to let you know that you’ll receive a Family Newsletter on Friday with more information on a variety of topics.
A virtual press conference was held on 4/15/2020. The video is embedded above for your convenience, however if you would like to jump directly any particular topic you can click a link below to jump to that point in the video on YouTube.
We are committed to supporting all students in their learning throughout this school closure. We know that reporting on student progress is an important part of the partnership between families and schools. We are also aware that changes to grading have lasting impacts on students’ learning experiences. When we return to school buildings, our staff will work together to reassess student needs, and ensure students have the skills to succeed in next-level coursework.
We have developed the grading guidance below with the following goals in mind:
Maintain flexibility for teachers and students
Minimize disruption for students
Ensuring grades and assignments should only benefit students and not negatively affect their grades during this time
Provide families and students accurate feedback about students’ progress
Support all students through this emotionally challenging time
Consider the complex needs of all students, while supporting academic progress
Traditional 3rd quarter conferences will not occur for elementary. Staff will check in weekly with families. End of year report cards will be a narrative summary of progress in key areas. Additional information regarding report cards will be forthcoming.
Middle School Quarter 3 and final report cards will both reflect the following changes:
Students have the opportunity to complete assignments and improve existing grades.
Students will not receive zeros. Unfinished or missing assignments in Quarters 3 and 4 will not count negatively toward a student’s grades.
Student grades will not drop lower than they were on March 13th - grades can only be improved.
Possible grades include: 4, 3, 2, continuing progress (CP) and N/A (for standards not taught).
MMSD will be implementing a pass/no pass system for final second semester grades for all high school courses. We recognize that there are no perfect options for addressing grading, because the current situation is far from ideal.
This decision aligns with our overall goals for high school grading that include:
Providing teachers and students with maximum flexibility
Ensuring there is no disruption to student GPAs and/or credit attainment
Collecting evidence of student learning through progress monitoring and feedback
Supporting all students through this emotionally challenging time
Ensuring grades should only benefit students from March 13th until the end of the school year
Pass/no pass will freeze GPA as it stands after the first semester and will not impact a student’s cumulative grade point average (GPA). Definitions of Pass/No Pass are listed below:
Pass - Student has met minimum requirements for content standards. A grade of D (59.5%)- or higher is passing.
No Pass - Student has not met minimum requirements for content standards. Every effort has been made to ensure that students received feedback and multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery of standards. Students will receive a No Pass (NP) for the course(s)
Teachers will continue to assign work and record the scores in the Infinite Campus (IC) gradebook. As assignments are completed and graded by teachers, students and families will be able to see grades in IC. These grades provide feedback regarding student performance on Virtual learning assignments. Please note, there will be no final exams for courses this year.
We recognize that there are still some unknowns during this unprecedented time. Please know we are protective of the future post high school plans of our students. College admissions offices have been clear that they will be understanding of the various ways high schools will be approaching grading during these last two quarters.
MMSD will provide letter grades when requested by a third party (examples: academic scholarship, post-secondary admission needs, NCAA athletic eligibility, etc). More details and processes will be forthcoming.
Exploring plans for mailing offline instructional packets, by request, in the works (more to come)
We are working on a plan to ensure every student without access to the internet still has the resources they need to stay engaged and continue learning during school closures. This may entail families signing up to receive additional instructional packets in the mail. We are working through details and will have more information for you on this next week, please stay tuned.
Seriously, practice social distancing - MMSD playgrounds, athletic fields and courts closed
The headline really says it all. But it bears repeating: all MMSD playgrounds, athletic fields and courts are closed. No one - children or adults - should be using these spaces. We are working on increasing the visibility of signage indicating this.
Public Health Madison & Dane County has requested that we reiterate the importance of physical distancing to our families and staff. They shared this message: "We know these are tough times, and that having your kids get together with other kids brings a sense of comfort (and gives you a break too)! However, it's extremely important that you and your family maintain physical distance from other people who live outside of your home. Do not host play dates, meet up at the park or let your children hang out with their friends during the day, evening or on the weekends."
Students in advanced placement courses should have received a letter earlier this week, detailing the plan for AP exams, which will be administered online. Read more here.
Huegel students share their virtual learning excitement
The Huegel PTO put together this compilation video to show Huegel students' excitement during their first week of virtual learning. Check it out here.
One of the series is called MSCR Makes and is hosted by Miss Julia. This series includes family art videos that you can do together at home. We are launching new videos weekly. Here are some of the latest:
From Madison & Dane County Public Health: "COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly changed the face of food access in Madison and Dane County. There are new challenges for individuals who historically have had low access to food. There are also emerging challenges for the broader community as citizens grapple with Governor Evers's Safer at Home order.
Individuals with limited or no income can dial 2-1-1 from any phone to identify the nearby emergency food options. Most food pantries in Dane County have now switched to curbside or drive-thru pickup to minimize points of contact between volunteers, staff, and shoppers."
You can find additional information on grocery store delivery options, FoodShare and WIC on this fact sheet.
I hope that the first two days of easing into virtual learning have gone well for your student(s). Thank you for your patience as we work through many details. I’m writing this morning with a few updates.
Updated calendar, including canceled early release dates and canceled parent-teacher conferences
To reflect the move to virtual learning, we have made minor modifications to the district calendar posted at mmsd.org/calendar. Specifically, the updated calendar shows:
April 10 as the new 3rd Quarter end date for Middle Schools and Shabazz. As a reminder, High Schools moved to a semester reporting for second semester and there will be no third quarter reporting.
April 6 as the start of virtual learning.
Canceled K-12 Early Release Mondays because these are not applicable. By design, the virtual school day is flexible and incorporates time for the activities/purposes normally engaged in during early release.
Canceled early release and evening Elementary parent teacher conferences, as these will not be occurring. The virtual learning schedule provides time for staff to communicate with families around student progress.
Canceled ASPIRE testing, which is not occurring per the Wisconsin Department of Instruction directives.
Device and tech support phone number
The best way to report an issue with a device or a problem logging in or accessing instructional websites is to use the drop-down menu on mmsd.org/homesupport, which prompts you to email your school’s Library Media Technology Specialist. We also now have a phone number that you can call if you are unable to send an email: 608-204-5678. You will be asked to leave a voicemail with the following information: a phone number you can be reached at, student ID number, student name, school name and brief description of the issue.
To date, nearly 7,000 devices have been mailed home. On Monday and Tuesday, staff working out of our high schools contacted all students who reported an issue and arranged for delivery or curbside pick-up.
We are prioritizing charging cable requests for the remainder of the week. We will reach out if you reported that your student needed a charger when you replied to the survey. We will make arrangements as quickly as possible to get you a charger.
We are pausing on any new Chromebook requests until Monday, April 13, to allow the delivery process to work itself out. We are getting returned devices from wrong addresses and we are also dealing with some duplicate requests.
If you have any questions about signing into Chromebooks, here are instructions. If you have an issue, before you request tech support, try restarting the device. Restarting solves many problems. How to restart: Hold down the power button on the side and the refresh button in the middle of the top row on the keyboard.
As we do our best to support students and families, we are using a variety of methods to facilitate education and continue to develop relationships with our families. We are, whenever possible, using many of the same online tools we employ in face-to-face schooling. However, we need to utilize these tools in new ways and add tools we didn’t need before COVID-19.
During this time, we are offering the opportunity for students to video conference with classroom teachers for direct instruction through Zoom. We understand that there have been some concerns over Zoom’s privacy and security, and want to update you on what we are doing to protect our students, which is our top priority.
Teachers have been instructed to utilize one or more of the following features that will allow them to secure their Zoom room:
Lock Zoom rooms once they start the class to prohibit others from joining.
Control the screen sharing settings with the room. Limit who can share anything and when sharing can take place.
Enable the waiting room, to determine who is allowed in the room.
Disable the chat feature, within the teacher’s room, if needed to prevent unwarranted conversations that might become a distraction for students.
Monitor who is in the room, prior to starting, and remove those not familiar to the teacher.
Do not allow users to join a room prior to the teacher.
Require a password for access to the room.
If you have continued concern and DO NOT want your child to participate in Zoom video conferencing, please complete this opt-out form by 3:30 p.m. on April 15.
Please know that opting out means that your child might not have direct instruction, as this is the only means of instruction during this time. If you do not fill out the opt-out form by the deadline, we will assume that you consent to your child using Zoom for virtual learning.
I also wanted to share these additional clarifications:
Students should not create nor be asked to create accounts. In order to enforce this, all district-issued devices have blocked access to the account creation page.
Teachers will directly invite students to a video conference through a unique URL. No additional login is required of the student.
Students/families should not share the URL that the teacher has provided to students.
Since students cannot create accounts with the MMSD devices, they cannot invite other students or teachers to a Zoom meeting.
Teachers have the opportunity to screen share, however, teachers will not record any lessons while students are in the Zoom room.
It will be the responsibility of the teacher to end the meeting to ensure that students do not have access to the room once the lesson or office hour(s) is over.
Teachers managing the Zoom room will manage audio and video for all students. The default for Zoom is that participants will not show their videos. However, please know students can participate through video if the teacher enables this option.
Your child(ren)'s information is confidential, but in a digital format, where small group instruction may occur, others will have access to their image and work product. For example, a student might share a document with others during a video session.
Please feel free to reach out to your child(ren)’s class teacher or principal if you need additional information.
We have adopted (with permission from the creator, CESA 2) Video Conferencing Norms for Families, Students and Teachers. Please discuss these with your child(ren) to help make this virtual learning format successful for everyone. In addition, please find further information about Zoom’s privacy for K-12 Schools & Districts here.
As a reminder, our students should not be gathering in groups outside the family unit at this time at parks or playgrounds. Thank you for your continued partnership as we find ways to continue to support our MMSD community during these times of uncertainty.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.