Temporary food benefits for children who qualify for free or reduced-price meals

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is currently working on identifying students that have qualified for Free or Reduced-priced school meals at schools participating in the National School Lunch Program so they can receive P-EBT. The P-EBT is a temporary supplemental income to be spent on food for students that have qualified for free or reduced-price school meals.  DHS applied for and was awarded funding from USDA to distribute P-EBT to students that qualify. This is an additional benefit to the free school meals available from MMSD.

  • If you have a question about Pandemic EBT or P-EBT , which are temporary food benefits for children who usually get free or reduced-price school meals, please visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services webpage for more information.
  • If you have a child or children who qualified for free or reduced-price meals this year or attend a CEP school, you do not need to take any action at this time. If you participate in a state benefit program, such as FoodShare or BadgerCare Plus, the benefits will automatically be provided on your Quest card if you have one or on a P-EBT card that you will receive in the mail. 
  • You will be notified by approximately May 21 if you are getting benefits.
  • All students who attend a CEP school will receive the P-EBT benefit regardless of free or reduced-price eligibility status.
  • The WI Department of Health Services (DHS) has compiled a list of all free and reduced-price students in Wisconsin to provide benefits to. The list is not all-inclusive and may accidentally exclude those that qualify. To ensure all qualifying students receive the P-EBT benefits, DHS has created an online application. A link will be posted to the MMSD Food & Nutrition Department website.
  • The Health and Human Services webpage will be updated as more information becomes available
  • Please do not contact your school or Food & Nutrition Department at this time as they will not have any additional information.

Need support with your Chromebook?

The Family, Youth & Community Engagement (FYCE) Department has produced three videos to support you with your Chromebooks. The video topics are logging into your Chromebook, switching user accounts and accessing Gmail. These videos can be found on the FYCE Facebook Page.

Reminder: WiFi access points at schools

We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure all students can access the internet for virtual learning. In addition to the existing options, most recently we've installed Wireless Access Points (WAPs) at Leopold, Lake View, Mendota, Toki, Orchard Ridge, Lincoln and Falk. 

These WAPs will allow staff and students to access MMSD wireless internet from outside the building using their MMSD-issued device. These WAPs will not allow access to the internet using a non-MMSD device. Wireless internet will be available from 8 am-5 pm seven days a week at these WAPs, and the range is up to 500 feet from the buildings. Learn more, including important reminders about social distancing at our WAPs.

Seniors: Sign up for important college reminder texts

To support recent graduates through the transition to college, encourage your senior student to sign up for texts from MMSD counselors (parents can sign up too). Students will receive approximately 15 text messages throughout the summer reminding them of important next steps, and counselors will be available to respond to text messages and meet with students/families when needed. Their information will not be shared with anyone. 

The following are examples of what counselors will support students with: 

  • Applying for and obtaining financial aid
  • Responding to unanticipated college-related expenses
  • Balancing the challenges of life, work and college planning
  • Completing required college paperwork
  • Communicating with their colleges
  • Connecting students to appropriate resources and supports at their college. 
  • Supporting a change in plans due to COVID 19

Sign up here.

Tune in to our press conference

As a reminder, we've been holding regular virtual press conferences, which is an opportunity for reporters to ask questions of the school board and administration. You can watch the conferences live on this channel. In this week's press conference, we answered questions about our 2020 graduation plans -- both virtual and in-person celebrations -- as well as budget, summer school staffing and our May 13 professional development day.

Join us on Facebook Live on May 14 for our next Coping During COVID-19 session

Join us for our next live session Thursday, May 14 at 3:00 p.m. on Managing Your Money in Uncertain Times, part of our Coping During COVID-19 Facebook Live series. While your health is the most important thing to keep in mind, you might also be concerned about the economy and your financial wellness. That's why MMSD is collaborating with Summit Credit Union to ensure you get the money management tips and tools needed to help you better understand your personal finances. You'll hear from MMSD's Director of Family, Youth and Community Engagement Angela Fitzgerald Ward and Summit Credit Union Financial Education Specialist, Amy Crowe. Together, they'll walk you through knowing where you stand, using what you have, saving, budgeting and changing your financial habits to get you through uncertain times. Ask your questions in the comment section during the presentation and our experts will answer them in real time. 
 
You can view our live session from Wednesday, May 6 here. featuring MMSD's Lead Nurse, Kari Stampfli and Public Health Nurse and Immunization Coordinator, Sarah Hughes of Public Health Madison & Dane County. 

Dear Families,

I hope this message finds you well, and that you and your family enjoy the sunshine that is forecast over the next few days. I wanted to end this week by giving you a brief update on our work on graduation for the class of 2020.  

I first want to say how grateful I am to those families and students who have reached out with suggestions, support and understanding, as we continue to plan and finalize the details on what we are going to be doing to celebrate our seniors.   

Next week you will hear details on our plan for a formal virtual graduation that is in the near term, however what I am excited to tell you today is that we are also planning to recognize the class of 2020 in the long term.  In addition to our formal virtual graduation, our plan also includes an in-person celebration to be held later in the year, on a date to be determined, and when the risk of COVID-19 has subsided and is at a safe level for larger gatherings. 

The planning for our in-person celebration is in the works, and will involve student collaboration  to make it an event that will allow our seniors to come together with their families, to honor their achievements and provide an opportunity for a more personal goodbye and send-off as they move on to the next stage of their lives.  We will be providing you more information and detail on the in-person celebration in the upcoming weeks. 

As final details are ironed out, we are on track to making an announcement regarding our plan for graduation in detail next week on Wednesday. In partnership with local business, the virtual portion of our plan is multi-faceted and will provide an opportunity for the entire community to celebrate, recognize and honor our seniors’ achievements in ways that extend beyond the internet, and most importantly show how much our community appreciates them.

I know this has been a struggle for our seniors and their families, and we appreciate your grace and patience as we felt it important to be very thoughtful in our planning and coordination, while trying to find the right balance between making the Class of 2020’s Graduation the best it can possibly be, while also making it the safest it can be.

Sincerely, 

Jane Belmore
Interim Superintendent

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. 

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. 
 
You can view the revised calendar at mmsd.org/calendar

School Garden Guidelines

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.

Join us on Facebook Live next Wednesday

Tune in to the MMSD Facebook page on Wednesday, April 29 at 2pm for 'Coping during COVID-19: Supporting our Children and Families': a Facebook Live session facilitated by Armando Hernandez with guests Jocelyn Lepinski and Carrie Klein. The session will be repeated in Spanish at 3pm. 
 
Future topics include 'Covering Your COVID-19 Concerns' and 'Financially Weathering the COVID-19 Storm'.

Partners Pitch In! Our collective COVID-19 Response

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. 

Elementary slide deck (Spanish
Middle and high school slide deck (Spanish coming soon) 

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. 

Give or get free and confidential help

Find the latest MSCR Free Fitness Activities

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: 

Find links to all the art, enrichment and fitness videos here.

In case you missed it...

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. 

Weather.gov/wrn/spring-safety has a bunch of information, like this video on thunderstorm types, for all ages on tornadoes and other springtime weather hazards. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created Ready Wrigley PDF activity books in English and Spanish to help kids understand types of extreme weather and to help children learn the importance of being prepared.

Dane County Emergency Management offers advice in this document for creating a family emergency plan. You can also sign up to receive emergency notifications via text or email to be alerted to potentially life-threatening and public safety emergencies in Dane County at 

We'd love to share any photos this week of you and your family learning about and preparing for severe weather, whether you're reading a book together, creating an emergency kit, watching a video together or coloring a picture. Send them to mmsdnews@madison.k12.wi.us or post them to Facebook or Instagram and tag us (facebook.com/MadisonSchoolsWI, instagram.com/madisonschools)! 

Please also remember that we have a growing library of online resources on Being Well and Mental Health

Dear Families, 

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. 


Until then, take good care of yourselves, 

Jane Belmore,
Interim Superintendent

Pages