District to start school year all-virtual

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The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District announced Monday night that for the safety of its students, staff and families that the District will use an all-virtual instructional model to begin the 2020-21 school year.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the recommendation from administration at its regular meeting on July 20.

“The safety of our students, staff and families is our No. 1 priority,’’ Superintendent Dana Monogue said. “We want our schools open, however, doing so when the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing would not be putting safety first.’’

The Fall Planning: Starting the School Year presentation from Monday's School Board meeting is available on the District website's COVID-19 Information & Updates page.

MCPASD has been preparing multiple instructional models for the 2020-21 school year: all-virtual learning, all in-person learning, and a hybrid-blended model that would include some in-person and some virtual instruction. The District plans to evaluate how all-virtual learning is going, review the current data and consult with local health experts over the first month of instruction. Decisions will be made on a quarterly basis about which instructional model will be used, Director of Communications Perry Hibner said.

However, Hibner also noted if the Forward Dane Plan moves to Phase 3 the District earlier at any point in the school year, MCPASD would work to move to a blended or all-in person model.

Hibner noted the planning teams that have been developing and evaluating instructional models since the 2019-20 school year ended in early June will spend the next few weeks fine-tuning virtual learning and modifying what went well and what must improve after the District moved to virtual learning in mid-March.

Hibner noted the District surveyed families in late April and early May about the virtual learning experience and 55-68 percent, depending on the level, thought it was going well. The District also surveyed staff twice. Based on feedback from families and staff some of the improvements the Districts plans to make include:

  • More instruction and learning of new content
  • More face-to-face time between staff and students
  • Differentiated learning opportunities for students
  • More supports in place to improve student participation and learning
  • Consistent experience within and across schools for all students
  • More student and family engagement, relationship-building, and explicit instruction on virtual tools and platform use.
  • More student and family engagement, relationship-building, and explicit instruction on virtual tools and platform use.

“We know that virtual learning isn’t without its challenges,’’ Monogue said. “We also realized that were was no option out there that was going be 100 percent supported by families and staff. However, we will continue to improve the virtual learning experience. Our goal is to still resume in-person instruction as soon as it is safely possible.’’

Hibner noted Sept. 1-4 will be reserved for teacher planning and preparation, provide students with instructions and training for the learning platforms being used and to make sure any students who haven’t already accessed devices have them or to work with families on internet access. Students will begin instruction on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

The District plans to offer four days’ worth of instruction and one day for staff to plan and collaborate. Hibner noted the planning day is extremely important to make sure the District is ready to switch to a hybrid-blended or all in-person model should guidance from area health officials support that move. Students will work independently and/or online on Wednesdays while staff use that day for planning and collaboration.

MCPASD provided more than 2,000 devices to students after it switched to virtual learning on April 1. More than 110 MiFi devices, which provide internet access, were also distributed to families who lacked the ability to connect to the internet. MCPASD has also provided close to 60,000 meals to children at sites across the District on weekdays since March 17.