Board Discusses Fall Plan to Reopen Schools

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Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The Middleton-Cross Plains School Board discussed the plan for students returning to school in fall. Depending on health data and Dane County guidance the district may continue virtual learning, return to in-person or implement a hybrid model. The board is expected to make a final decision at its July 20 meeting.

The district is considering multiple options for students returning to school in the fall. 

Board member Minza Karim asked about the possibility of continuing virtual learning for families that prefer it or rotating students between in-person and virtual learning. 

Monogue said those are both hybrid options that are being considered. 

Karim offers that another possibility is to return in-person in the fall and move to virtual learning after Thanksgiving break.

Monogue said that was not being considered now but depending on the possibility of a second-wave outbreak that may be something the district has to consider.

Karim said she has had a lot of feedback including from her husband that the district did not do a good enough job preparing the virtual learning.

Monogue said she has also had that feedback especially at the elementary level. She said the district will have time to improve the online programming for fall if it continues.

Board member Anne Bauer said she is concerned about the health of bus drivers since many of them are older. She also said the district should try to find alternatives to kids congregating in large groups during the beginning and end of the day.

Board member Katy Morgan said parents having their kids at home has negatively impacted some families more than others. She said the district could offer families the choice to opt-in to virtual learning.

Board member Bob Green said realistically the district is looking at another semester or two with some sort of virtual learning aspect. He said some students were struggling before the closures and he does not want to see them lose a year and a half of education.

“As we move forward with this we are basically going to be triaging, fixing things as we move along, I want to make sure that some of our students who need it the most don’t get lost in that triage effort,” Green said.

Monogue said that is being heavily considered and that the district is going to have to be flexible with kids coming back in fall. She believes engagement will improve in the fall if virtual learning must continue.

The district needs a plan for paraeducators and support staff for students with special education needs if virtual learning continues, said Morgan. She added her experience working from home has been challenging having a child with special needs.

Board member Todd Smith said he is worried about students staying on track with core academics. He received comments from families saying the virtual learning could be more rigorous, but noted it is a hard line to draw what is too much and not enough.

Board president Annette Ashley commented that there are many staff in the district with students in neighboring districts and they should do their best to coordinate their plans.

Monogue said staff and administration meet weekly with neighboring districts and are trying to form a consistent plan.

Board member Bob Hesselbein said he hears the concerns but there is no way to plan for the level of uncertainty caused by Covid-19.

“It is important for us to remind our communities that we are in a once-in-a-century pandemic, this is a unique time and we can ask our school district to do the best it can and create potential plans, but they can’t possibly plan for all the events that might come up in the next three months,” Hesselbein said. “This is not a convenient thing for anyone and we are keeping people alive, yesterday was a very good day in Dane County because no one died of Covid-19, but it was a rare day.”

Hesselbein said he was impressed by the fact the district is looking at various different models that it will have to adapt to in the fall.

Ashley pointed out the survey results on virtual learning provided a lot of positive feedback. The majority of the parents in the district were pleased with the shift that took place so quickly, she said. 

Smith said a lot of families are anxious for the district to announce the plan for fall but they should communicate with families that the board wants the most information to make the best decision.

“We will make the best decision when we have as much information as possible, that is one reason an announcement will be coming later rather than sooner,” Smith said.

The board also discussed graduation planning with a final decision expected at the June 22 meeting. Superintendent Dana Monogue said any plan the district approves will need to be submitted to Dane County for approval as well.

She noted schools in other counties are getting different guidance or no guidance at all in effect, different scenarios are playing out throughout the state.

“I recognize that is frustrating to all of us especially if you are connected in other counties, but we have to abide by Dane County guidance, which is probably the most restrictive and strict across the state,” Monogue said.

Some districts are planning drive-through, virtual or large face to face ceremonies in July, she said.

Monogue said the district is planning to provide students with some sort of in person experience. That will likely be smaller groups at a time with a condensed ceremony and speeches will be prerecorded and shared.

Hesselbein reminded the district needs to be cautious planning any in-person event.

“We have to keep in mind, although we have a logical model, human nature at time of emotion might make social distancing a bit more difficult,” Hesselbein said.

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