Board receives start of school year update

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Superintendent Dana Monogue provided an update on the start of the 2020-21 school year during a Board of Education special meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

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 noted the District launched its virtual educational instructional model on Tuesday for more than 7,400 students in 4K through 12th grade. She thanked staff for their efforts to make the first day as smooth as possible.

She also acknowledged there are some technology issues to resolve, including working to get MiFi interet access devices to some families. The District continues to push Charter-Spectrum, which agreed earlier in the summer to provide at a reduced price internet to families who face financial challenges in areas where it is offered but not currently subscribing. Monogue also noted iPads will be delivered to all 4K students along with Park and Pope Farm kindergarteners and first-graders on Thursday and Friday.

The District's meal delivery program began on Sept. 1. She said three additional routes were added this week in order that students would receive meals earlier. Monogue also noted that drivers are out with their buses practicing routes this week and next.

The District continues to monitor Dane County health data. Even though recent results haven't been as positive, MCPASD still hope to bring back at least some elementary students on Oct. 12.

Monogue noted she has received lots of feedback from students, staff and families. She shared that some are happy and others aren't. "The start of the school year has a different feel and a different tone,'' she said. "We appreciate that our teachers and families are working together to make the best of this situation. ... We know we can't be all things to all people.''

Monogue noted the District will need about two weeks to get transportation in order and other protocols in place once the School Board approves a plan to bring students into school buildings.

The District will let elementary students and families decide if they want to switch instructional models once the School Board votes on a plan to bring students back into school buildings. Monogue noted secondary students and families had until Aug. 31 to make a switch. She said close to 100 students were moved at the end of August, but anyone wanting to switch models now will have to wait until end of the semester.

Board members spent about 25 minutes offering their thoughts and asking questions. Some had concerns about Fully Virtual students at the middle schools not having the same opportunities with encore classes as students in the Universal model, especially as it relates to world languages. Jill Gurtner noted about 10 percent of families with children in the Fully Virtual model indicated they didn't want their children to take a world language this year.

There were also questions about the District's decision to wait until at least Sept. 28 to potentially bring students with IEPs and 504s back into school buildings for support. Public Health Madison Dane County amended Order No. 9 recently to allow schools to bring in students with special needs. Director of Student Services Barb Buffington noted her staff will be working to provide the support students need in a virtual setting over the first three weeks of the school year.

You can view the Sept. 9 Board of Education meeting on the District's YouTube Channel.