Board hears about possible return to school

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Superintendent Dana Monogue, Deputy Superintendent Sherri Cyra and Director of Elementary Education Rainey Briggs offered an update on plans to implement a blended instructional model at the elementary level at the Board of Education regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 14.

Board president Annette Ashley presided over the meeting at the District Services Center, while other Board members participated remotely. The School Board has been meeting virtually since mid-March.
 
Monogue opened the presentation by noting Verona and Waunakee already have pre-kindergarten through second-grade students in school buildings, while Oregon and McFarland are planning to have students in those age groups start this week. She believes MCPASD can learn from neighboring districts.

She also noted there have been questions from some families about the amount of synchronous learning at the elementary level and the desire for more. She emphasized the District's priority so far has been on small group or one-on-one instruction vs. large group instruction but that the elementary planning team will continue to review possible tweaks to the model in the coming weeks.

Briggs asked families to practice patience and noted the first 2-3 weeks of any school year is about students and staff getting to know one another.

"Building relationships are important so we can appropriately provide instruction,'' he said.

Monogue noted the District's plan was to ask the School Board to approve a blended model on Sept. 28 that would bring PK-4 students into school buildings starting Oct. 12. Medical guidance and research supports in-person learning for ages 10 and younger, she said.

The target date for secondary students to return to school buildings is Nov. 2.  

Cyra noted some of the information in Board packet is obsolete because it came out before the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued the temporary injunction related to Order No. 9. She said the proposed timeline shows what the process would look like between now and Oct. 12. She noted the District needs to establish cohorts, which were driven by the high school so had to wait until model and schedule changes at that level were finished. The next step is determining transportation routes and Cyra said District families whose children are eligible for busing have been asked to complete the form must be by Thursday night.

The District proposed sending families of early childhood, 4K and elementary students communication at the end of the week with information about cohorts and giving them a week to determine if they wanted to change instructional models when students return. As a result, families would not have the opportunity to change models at the end of the first trimester, as previously considered, Briggs said. Board members were concerned that only having a week to get everything finalized might not be enough time for the District.

Briggs noted the District is proposing a blended model when students return. Fifty percent of students would attend on Monday-Tuesday and the other 50 percent on Thursday-Friday. The two days when students aren't in school they would access virtual learning. Briggs noted the District plans to purchase technology that would allow students in different cohorts to access classroom on days they are learning virtually. A benefit is that would allow Universal students to remain with the same classroom teacher they currently have

Synchronous instruction during that time doesn't mean students will receive 3-plus hours of live instruction he added. It will be based on current structure of mini-lessons and small groups. The District also plans to have encore staff teach in students' homeroom classroom, which will limit the movement of students and should minimize risk of possible widespread infection.

The Board spent more than 30 minutes asking questions and offering feedback. Most members were concerned about moving away from the PHMDC data that was announced last month about when to open schools for K-2, 3-5 and 6-12 students. They were also concerned about dangers to staff and the community if schools are opened too quickly. Members also wondered if the data changes drastically after the School Board votes on Sept. 28 what might happen.

Monogue assured the Board the District doesn't want to move children in and out of models and will continue to monitor the data and consult PHMDC. She also stressed remaining flexible and that if the data doesn't improve the timeline for bringing students back could be pushed back.  

Other members of the fall planning team who participated in the meeting were Lori Ames, Barb Buffington, Danielle Krbecek and MaryBeth Paulisse.