Board holds special meeting

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The Board of Education held a special meeting to get an update on the District's COVID-19 planning on Monday, March 16.

The District shared its pandemic plan and also shared the most pertinent talking points developed by administration on Monday.

"This is a living, breathing document because the guidance we are getting sometimes changes hourly,'' Superintendent Dana Monogue said. "This is such a fluid situation that we are encouraging everyone to be fluid in their thinking as well.''

The District plans to pay staff its full contracted time while schools are closed, Assistant Superintendent for Operations Lori Ames said. Staff will also continue to maintain benefits, she said.

Staff must be available during time when normally would be working in case supervisors need them, she added. Communication, including how to fill out time sheets,will be sent to each employee group later in the week. Ames also noted if someone decides not to work when asked that they will need to use paid leave time.

Ames also said beginning on Tuesday free breakfast and lunch will be provided to children ages 18 and younger at nine sites around the District. A yellow bus will be at each site on weekdays from 11 a.m. to noon, including spring break, until at least April 3, Ames said. She noted schools across the United States received a federal waiver so can do it anywhere and don't have to eat on site.

"We're really excited about this,'' Ames said, who also noted there are plans to continue the Weekend Food Program.

Deputy Superintendent Sherri Cyra noted staff members from schools connected with sites would be on site so can reach out to families whose children might benefit but don't show up. Families were notified they could get meals at two MMSD sites on Monday as MCPASD didn't have their program ready yet, DIrector of Communications Perry HIbner said.

Cyra reviewed virtual instruction and said students who don't have access to computers can pick up devices at schools on Tuesday from 7-11 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. Families received a phone call and an email about the program and times available. The District surveyed families to find out how many devices are needed and expects to hand out at least 1,000. Cyra noted another session may be added later in the week.

The District has also ordered 80 extra MiFi devices that will be distributed next week to families who need internet access. She said the District has also informed families that multiple companies are also offering free internet access for at least two months.

Cyra shared that online instruction for students will begin April 1. The District will use this week to create digital training modules about how to use various platforms for staff. There are different platforms depending on the level and Cyra noted many staff are using the platforms already. Students will be loaded into courses by the end of spring break.

Cyra reminded the School Board that online instruction won't look the same as when students come to school all day. She also indicated young children in particular won't be online the same amount of time they are in school and added expectations will be age-appropriate and varied. The District also realizes not every child will have someone at home to help them.

Teachers are being asked to connect with students in classrooms this week, Cyra said.

The U.S. Department of Education has begun providing guidance on state assessments and special education, Cyra said. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction announced on Monday that it districts can submit waivers for the hours-minutes requirement and the process will be expedited to approve them.

"So many of you are doing a great job with a lot of stress on you and I appreciate it,'' Ashley said.

Monogue also briefly reviewed that access to buildings will be limited over the next few weeks. She noted no spring athletic teams can practice or play games until at least April 6, nor can other extra-curriculars such as the MHS Theatre or the music students. Finally, she said the high schools have not heard if there will be changes to Advanced Placement testing, which typically takes place in early May.

Added Monogue: "There are a lot of people putting in a lot of time. We have a phenomenal team.''

The Board also briefly discussed moving to virtual meetings. Board president Bob Green noted the District needs a policy to move to virtual meetings. Monogue will work with Wisconsin Association of School Boards attorney Bob Butler to develop a policy. Green also noted a number of districts have also reached out to WASB. The Board was supportive of going to virtual meetings if Butler has no objections.