School Board Reviews Reopening Plan as Students Return Next Week

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Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The Middleton-Cross Plains School District (MCPASD) Board of Education reviewed the latest preparations and changes in the district’s plan to return to in-person instruction. A blended in-person/virtual instruction model for students in grades PK-4 begins Feb. 1, grades 5-8 begins Feb. 22 and 9-12 begins Mar. 11, while the fully virtual instruction will continue to be offered through the end of the year with some changes.

Superintendent Dana Monogue said the district has every intention to fully open schools in the fall, but at this time there is still the need to be responsive to the pandemic.

“We are encouraged by the vaccine distribution schedule for our staff and the downward trajectory of COVID-19 in Dane County and we hope this trend continues,” Monogue said. 

Monogue said all teachers and staff are in cue for the next round of vaccinations to be offered. Staff including speech pathologist, occupational and physical therapists, nurses and special education staff who are providing in-person instruction have all been offered the first dose of the vaccine.

The district is participating in a Dane County pilot rapid antigen test program beginning with 40 kits, Monogue said.

All school buildings have completed a pandemic planning guide and had verification walkthroughs with administration staff and building safety consultants. Board member walkthroughs are scheduled Jan. 26, 28 and Feb. 2.

Kindergarten welcome begins Jan. 28 and 29 and the entire week of Jan. 25 was used as welcome week for all elementary students, Monogue said.

Monogue said the district’s COVID-19 dashboard will begin including student data beginning Feb. 1 when they return. 

Deputy Superintendent Sherri Cyra explained to the board that there was a significant increase in the number of students enrolled in the fully virtual model in the latest round of enrollment change requests. There has also been a drop in the number of students enrolled in the district overall.  

“Because our enrollment is still significantly lower than we had projected it to be, our class sizes in both models are lower than typical,” Cyra said.

Business Services Director Lori Ames said teaching staff are being rearranged for the 707 students moved to fully virtual. Staff and students had to be shifted around for various reasons to accommodate everyone's schedules and situations, Ames added.

Ames said student transportation staff are busy planning and training. Finalized bus routes were sent to families on Jan. 26. Staff are training by doing dry runs, Ames said, students will be loaded from the back to the front of the bus. They will have assigned seating adequately distanced. 

Board member Bob Hesselbein asked if the consulting firm that was hired to help with building preparation has been helpful. Monogue said the firm McKinstry has been crucial in the building plans and will continue working with the district through the transition.

Board member Minza Karim asked if bus drivers will get the vaccine. Monogue said the group includes all staff in the district.

Katy Morgan, board member, asked about students being ‘autodropped’ from classes they enrolled in. Monogue explained that several students in the fully virtual model enrolled in high level classes that were not being offered. The district has made arrangements with those students to take the classes with district staff.

Morgan asked how the district is dealing with students changing teachers. Monogue said the last week was used as a transition week. The current teachers are providing closure and new teachers are building relationships, Monogue said. 

Morgan then asked how fast the vaccine can be administered to all staff once it is available. Monogue said it should be able to be administered within a few days. 

Morgan inquired what mental health support will be available for staff. Monogue said all principles are being purposeful in setting time for staff to talk and plan.

“They are thinking a lot about the mental wellness not only of our students but also of our staff,” Monogue said. “Knowing that these transitions are going to be met with a wide variety of emotion.”

Board member Anne Bauer questioned whether the district would have any issue having two different health care providers. Monogue said that will not likely cause an issue.

Bauer said some families that committed to a year of virtual learning may feel their quality of education is diminished with the changes, but the district is still offering those students a lot of synchronous opportunities. Monogue said fully virtual teachers are currently in communication with families to understand their expectations. She said the district is also adding new sections and teachers to the fully virtual model.

“It is important for our families to understand there is a wide variety of family needs and preferences and we work our best to try and meet as many of those as possible,” Monogue said.

Bob Green, board member, asked if the district will be tracking which staff are or are not vaccinated and if it will be required. Monogue said the district will be able to know which staff have declined, but in terms of policy the district can strongly encourage staff to get vaccinated but cannot require it.

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