Board receives pandemic planning update

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Superintendent Dana Monogue, Deputy Superintendent Sherri Cyra and Assistant Superintendent of Operations Lori Ames provided an update on several topics related to pandemic planning at the Board of Education regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 12.

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 reviewed most recent metrics with the School Board. As of Monday, the Dane County case rate average over the past 14 days has been 126 cases, which is down from 133 from two weeks ago. Those numbers don't align with Public Health Madison Dane County guidance, although she noted PHMDC is still allowing in-person instruction for students in PK-2 and that DeForest and Oregon opened up last week.

Wisconsin remains in the higher risk category, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although the metrics are improved from two weeks ago. The state remains In the lower risk transmission to schools at 3.3 percent, which is down slightly from two weeks ago. 

Census tract data provided by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows close to 100 new cases in the areas that make up the District over the past week. Monogue also said a PHMDC official noted on Friday that the number of people in Dane County hospitals is at its highest point this year.

Cyra noted there will be face-to-face fall parent-teacher conferences for those students and families where virtual conferences aren't feasible. The in-person conferences will mainly those who don't have internet access. She expects it to be a small number of families. A team is working on safety protocols, she added.

Cyra said Director of Elementary Education Rainey Briggs will be meeting with elementary principals this week to address the different levels of instruction across schools. The District will continue to work on the consistency of baseline instruction while also being to data that shows which students need more instruction or support.

Ames reviewed the meal distribution program, which began March 17 and ran through Aug. 14 before starting again on Sept. 1. The District is using a new model and families must sign up their children for free breakfast and lunch using My Payments Plus. Meals are distributed at schools for students not eligible for transportation, while the District is using 12 buses to drop off meals to those students who are.
 
Ames noted only 82 students participated in Week 1, but more than 450 did last week and more than 600 have signed up for the upcoming week. The District typically was serving up to 400 meals in the spring. 

The District is concerned about the small number of families who are eligible for free and reduced lunch who haven't accessed the program. Some schools are surveying families to identify what barriers exist that might be addressed. A bilingual language help phone line has been added, she said.  
 
The Weekend Food Program had 107 participants last week, which is 63 more than the first week. More than 200 bags were distributed on average per week last year when schools were open and the program was available at each of the elementary schools and Glacier Creek. 

Ames also noted curbside pickup and drop-off of library books and school materials has been going on for a couple of weeks. West Middleton has been using it extensively and other schools are checking with their families to see who would use the serve. 

The District will offer School Board members visits to tour three schools in the coming weeks: Pope Farm (Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m.), Sauk Trail (Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m.) and Northside (Nov. 13 at 9 a.m.). Members were asked to email Cheryl Janssen about which tours they plan to attend.