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Madison Metropolitan School District

Quarter Two Update

22-22 School year theme - Leaning Forward Together through Excellence, equity, humanity and intentionality.

A message from Superintendent Jenkins:

At the beginning of the school year, we committed to providing quarterly COVID-19 health and safety updates. You’ve witnessed our ongoing efforts related to health, safety, and the acceleration of our students, staff, and families. Nearly five months ago - on June 10 - we announced our planned return to in-person instruction, five days per week for this school year. Through ongoing collaboration on co-creation, we are so glad to see our scholars excelling once again, in school, and are excited to keep the energy and momentum going in the second quarter!

Dane County Mask Mandate Extended through January 3.

Read Order #5 here.

As we lean forward together, this is what this school year is all about - ensuring our students can learn in school, through the consistent use of mitigation strategies, while minimizing disruptions.  In our extended community, COVID numbers are holding steady, no longer rising. For now, we plan to continue with our COVID-19 safety measures. Here’s what this means for second quarter:

  • Masks will continue to be required inside school buildings and on buses. After the Dane County masking order #4 expires at the end of November, we will continue to review this guidance with our local health care experts. At this time, we don’t expect a change in this safety measure for MMSD during the second quarter.

  • Masks will continue to be required outdoors for 4K-8th grade students, and elementary and middle school staff, families, and visitors. As 5-11 year old students are now eligible to be vaccinated, we will continue to have discussions with our local health experts about when we should stop outdoor masking.

  • No change to school start/dismissal times. Unfortunately, these times will most likely last through the 3rd quarter and possibly all school year. We continue to seek 17 bus drivers to fill available positions.

  • No changes to physical distancing, or universal health practices such as frequent handwashing, covering coughs, staying home when sick.

  • Continue with cleaning protocols and scheduled cleanings of buildings.

Through ongoing consultation and discussions with our local health experts, these efforts are the best ways we can keep our community safe and healthy. We also continue to recommend, and strongly encourage, vaccination for all who are eligible. When students are vaccinated against COVID-19, it allows them to minimize out of school time due to a quarantine.

The timeline below shows where we’ve been and where we’re at now on a variety of topics which have been affected by the global health pandemic. Together, we have made great progress! However, we must continue to be diligent in following the guidance of health experts, and practicing safety protocols in order to provide safe, healthy in-person learning environments for our scholars.

If you have any questions, you are encouraged to follow up with your school principal or connect with us through the Let’s Talk platform found on the district website. Thank you for your continued support and partnership.

Sincerely,

Carlton D. Jenkins, Ph.D.
Superintendent


 

Community Conditions and Communication

Scientific illustration of COVID-19 virus.

Community Conditions

Then

  • In early June, Dane County averaged 11 cases per day, and 60% of residents were fully vaccinated. 

  • In September, cases in the county had risen to 105 per day, with 69% of residents fully vaccinated.

Now

  • According to the most recent two-week window (Oct. 18-31), Dane County is averaging 94 cases per day and trending down. Vaccination rates continue to rise, with 71% of Dane County residents fully vaccinated.
Paper cutouts of people

COVID-19 Cases in MMSD, and Positive Case Notification

Then

  • Week of September 8: 49 COVID-19 cases were reported in our buildings. 

  • Schools shared the close contacts and positive case notification process with staff and families.

  • MMSD’s Case Count Dashboard information was shared with families and staff.

Now

  • Week of October 27: 52 positive cases reported in our buildings. 

  • Notification process continues as planned, communicating with close contacts and sharing building-wide updates. At this time, we do not plan to send broad notifications when there is a positive case in a classroom in order to protect personal health information. 

  • Added the use of communication tools (such as robocalls and text messages) to our notification process in order to get information out more quickly.

  • Changes were made to the MMSD Case Count Dashboard to include the number of positive cases in a school building, in the most recent two-week period, after receiving feedback from stakeholders.

Volunteers

Then

  • At the beginning of school, volunteers were able to support schools and students outdoors and/or virtually.

  • MMSD’s Department of Strategic Partnerships adopted a staggered approach to building access for external partners and volunteers. This allowed for compliance with the Board of Education approved vaccination plan along with easing contract tracing efforts.

Now

  • Formalized community partner staff are now allowed in buildings if vaccinated.

  • Community volunteers will not be permitted in buildings until the second semester. A vaccination verification system for community volunteers is being developed in preparation for second semester building entrance.

Mitigation Strategies

Child at desk coloring with a marker with a mask on their face

Masking

Then

  • On June 10 we shared our 2021-2022 MMSD COVID-19 Safety Plan, with key mitigation strategies including masking indoors and on buses.

  • Beginning September 2, we expanded our mask requirement in elementary and middle school communities to include masking outdoors for students in 4K through 8th grade.

Now

  • On November 23, Dane County issued Emergency Order #5, extending the county mask mandate through January 3. We plan to continue requiring masks indoors as well as outdoors for students in 4K through 8th grades.

  • We will continue our physical distancing and universal health practices, which include frequent handwashing, covering coughs, and staying home when sick.

Person receiving a vaccine in their arm.

Staff Vaccinations

Then

  • When we began the school year, staff vaccinations were not required.

Now

  • At the September 27 MMSD Board of Education regular meeting, the Board unanimously approved a plan to require all staff, formal partners, and community volunteers to be fully vaccinated by November 1. 

  • MMSD held two vaccine clinics in October, offering the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine. 

  • As of November 8, 82% of staff had submitted their vaccination documentation.

  • Supervisors are reaching out to employees who have not yet submitted documentation, and as needed, these conversations are being followed up with formal expectation letters underscoring MMSD will move toward termination if they do not receive the vaccination, or medical or religious exemption. 

A swap in a medical tube indiating a test has been taken.

COVID-19 Tests

Then

  • Shortly after the start of the school year, we announced a collaboration with the Department of Health Services to open COVID-19 testing clinics at each of our schools.

Now

  • COVID testing clinics are available at 10 schools.

  • Due to implementation challenges, we continue to work with DHS and COVID Clinic (the testing vendor) to add testing clinics at more schools. Through the second quarter we plan to gradually expand the clinics to additional schools, as vendor capacity allows.

  • Students, staff, and family members from any MMSD school can visit a clinic to have a rapid antigen test.

  • We understand testing protocol after being positive, experiencing symptoms, or identified as a close contact can be confusing. We are creating handouts in multiple languages for schools to give to individuals who should be tested. These handouts explain when to get tested and which test to take, based on factors such as vaccination status, whether someone is symptomatic, whether someone recently tested positive and is now a close contact, and so on.

“There is this temptation to feel, because we’ve improved, it’s all over and now everyone is safe. And that’s not true. The point is, we don’t want to backslide. We need to look at all the things we can do now that we couldn’t do before because of these interventions.”- Thomas Friedrich, Professor, Pathobiological Sciences, UW Madison

Student Vaccine Access

Now

  • The week of November 1 we began our phased implementation of school-based vaccine clinics for eligible middle and high school students, made possible through a partnership with Walmart. 

  • We are planning to host vaccination clinics in our elementary schools, now that children aged 5-11 are eligible to receive the vaccine. Our first three clinics are scheduled for Leopold, Stephens, and Thoreau Elementary Schools on November 19 and 20.

  • Additionally, on November 9, a survey was shared with elementary school families about their interest in vaccine clinics at school.

Make an Appointment with Public Health Dane County

Athletics, Co-Curriculars and the Arts

soccer ball on field in front of net outside

Athletics and Co-Curriculars 

Then 

  • Fall athletics completed the season successfully with very few missed contests and worked to overcome officials and transportation shortages. Many student athletes advanced in the WIAA tournaments in our nine high school sports.

  • District-wide, participation was exceptional, with 1,759 high school athletes completing their fall sport season in 44 programs encompassing 132 different teams.

Now

  • Vaccinations are encouraged and strongly recommended for all who participate in interscholastic athletics. Quarantining is required in the event unvaccinated individuals participate in practices or competitions and there is a positive case present.

  • We continually review and update our mitigation practices to minimize the spread of COVID-19 You can read our full winter sports mitigation guidance here

  • We are in discussions with our medical experts about the possibility of mandating vaccinations for students in order to participate in athletics and co-curricular activities.

High school student playing a horn instrament

Arts

Then 

  • At the beginning of the school year, the Public Health Madison & Dane County mask mandate did not include exemptions for playing instruments, which led to initial outdoor practices. However, the order which went into effect September 10 did include this exemption, opening many more options for students and teachers in music.

Now

  • Each of MMSD’s four comprehensive high schools had fall Music concerts, as well as full theatre productions. From bringing La Follette and Memorial’s choir concerts outside, to maximizing video streaming and sharing capabilities to “send” East High School theatre students’ performances to the Wisconsin High School Forensic Association One-Act Theatre competition, we continue in our efforts to ensure students’ opportunities will grow in and through the Arts.

Cleaning, Transportation and Food & Nurtition

Custodian sweeping the floor

Cleaning 

Then

  • Scheduled cleaning of buildings and schools throughout the day.

Now

  • Custodial and Maintenance staff are continuing with “high touch-point” cleaning as part of their daily routine.

  • All classrooms have been outfitted with cleaning kits, which are restocked on a daily basis by custodians.

Picture of bus

Transportation

Then

  • MMSD – along with school districts across the country – faced a bus driver shortage.

  • As the first day of school approached, changes to school start and dismissal times were needed due to the driver shortage.

Now

  • Through the first quarter, we hired four drivers but lost 10.

  • To return to schools' regular bell times, we are in need of 17 bus drivers. 

  • There are potential drivers currently in various stages of the application, hiring, and training processes. If all goes well, this will help significantly. 

  • Badger Bus is working to recruit drivers, including spending more than $25,000 in radio, TV, newspaper, and social media ads. 

  • Current school start and dismissal times will continue through the second quarter, and will most likely continue through the third quarter and possibly the end of the school year.

Student hold a lunch tray.

Food & Nutrition

Then

  • In August, Food & Nutrition Services was short-staffed by 35 employees.

  • For the entire 2021-2022 school year, students receive free breakfast and lunch meals under the SSO (Seamless Summer Option) program

  • We experienced food chain shortages which affected food and menu consistently.

  • We recognized a need to provide access to nutritious meals for students required to quarantine, or temporarily learn virtually due to a classroom closure. However, this was complicated due to DPI regulations.

Now

  • We have hired 20 additional food service employees to expand our food production center and staff a few more schools with permanent food service employees. 
  • Schools across the country continue to experience food supply shortages, which continues to affect breakfast and lunch menu items.
  • Food & Nutrition Services continues ongoing communication with food service vendors, along with pre-planning menus with guidance from DPI and contracted vendors to ensure students are provided with the best quality meals.
  • To help fill the need to feed students sent home for COVID-related reasons, we collaborated with Second Harvest FoodBank, which paired community food pantries with all of our schools.

Virtual Learning

student virtually learning from home

Elementary Virtual Option

Then

  • On August 26, MMSD announced a virtual option for students in 4K through 5th grade. The decision was made after concerns of the rising incidence of the Delta variant, children under 12 not eligible for vaccinations, and associated risks with families who are immunocompromised.

  • More than 600 elementary students registered for this option for the first semester.

Now 

  • Our scholars continue to be engaged in virtual learning for the second quarter!

  • We are beginning to plan registration for the second semester. Currently, the registration window is tentatively scheduled to open on December 1.