School Board Members Tour Schools Ahead of Reopen

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By: 
Michelle Phillips
Top to bottom:Kromrey Principal Dom Ricks explainss classroom changes; the isolation room for those with COVID-19 symptoms; Social distance markings are throughout the school.

MIDDLETON–Middleton Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) School Board members have been touring the district’s schools in the past week, including a tour of Kromrey Middle School on Jan. 28. The board has been learning about the protocols that will be put in place as schools return to in-person learning through hybrid models. 

Kromrey Principal Dom Rick, Associate Principal Eric Engel, Dean of Students Brandon Tewalt and Kromrey school nurse Jenna Blizard led the small group through the school explaining the procedures that will be followed by students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tour began with Ricks telling the board members, “This is a little bit of excitement for us,” referring the opening the school. He said that about 1,000 of Kromrey’s 1,200 students would be returning in two cohorts and that class size would be limited to 12-15 students per class. 

Students would also be entering in separate doors according their grade level, with buses arriving between 8-8:10 a.m. The parent drop-off lane will be closed during both morning and afternoon drop off and pickup, but parking is available on Donna and Hart Streets and Middleton Police Department has agreed to assist with traffic. 

All of the hallways are split in half with a dividing line that has Xs marked six feet apart for social distancing. Cougar paws will also signify a six foot distance in some areas.

For morning breakfast students will go single file though a grab and go line and return to their classroom to eat. At lunch meals will be delivered to the students’ core classrooms and lunch will be ordered ahead of time, though Engel pointed out that there will be lunches available for those who may need them, and no one will go without lunch. Students may also bring their own lunch to school. Students will not be allowed in the cafeteria, but teachers may socially distance and eat their meals in the cafeteria.

There will be two recess dismissal times, 15 minutes and 25 minutes and all students will go outside for recess. In the event of inclement weather, staff would find activities for the students.

Classrooms have desks spaced apart and the teacher will have a headset and the rooms are equipped with speakers to make it easier for the teacher to be heard in the classroom when online with virtual learners. The district plans to have streaming ready by the third week of classes. 

“We want to make sure we are starting off on really good footing,” said Ricks.

One of the board members asked about ventilation within the space. Ricks said the ventilation system in the building was already very good and upgrades were not needed. Air circulates throughout the day with bigger transfers twice a day.

“It is basically like having your bathroom fan on all day,” Engel added. 

Students will have three opportunities to go to their locker each day. They may keep a jacket or lunch in their backpack if there is room, but cell phones would go in lockers.

Masks will be required for all students and staff unless they have a medical exemption, which must be provided to the school. 

“We’re going to have an abundance of masks,” said Ricks, and offered that in addition to classrooms, the front office and buses will also provide masks to those who need one.

“For some kids it’s a sensory thing, we need identify the kids and work with the family to meet their needs,” he said, and added that students will not be allowed to skip the mask based on philosophy. 

He said that it will boil down to placement of the student and that no kids would be turned away from education.

Bathrooms space is very limited with most only able to accommodate two students at a time. There will be spots marked on the floor for social distancing while waiting for the restroom. Teachers may also allow one student at a time out of class to use the restroom if necessary.

In the case of a student or staff member showing COVID-19 symptoms, an isolation room off the health office will be available. Staff can call ahead to the health office to give them time to put on proper PPE. 

Ricks told the group that McKinstry, a consulting firm hired by the district, reinforced the protocols the school had been putting in place. “By the time we met with McKinstry, we had pretty much already figured it out,” he stated.

He and Engel said it has been a collaborative process with staff and that it would remain a work in progress. 

Ricks praised superintendent Dana Monogue for supporting and educating staff about protocols for reopening. 

After the tour, Monogue told the Times-Tribune, “We’ve been cautious and thoughtful–we’re ready!”

She said she was proud of the staff for the time and effort they have put in to getting ready for students. But she added staff and students are coming back in the building with a variety of emotions and fears. 

Monogue said in the case of a COVID-19 cluster at one of the schools, it would be reported to Public Health of Madison and Dane County who would work with the schools.

“We will revert back to virtual if we have to,” she said, and added that they could also revert to virtual if there were a staff shortage.

“We have all those plans in place,” she concluded. 

 

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