The Madison Metropolitan School District plans to apply for a series of waivers from state requirements later this month for the 2020-21 school year.
On the same day as students began the school year virtually, administrators told the School Board about three waivers they plan to request — as long as the board approves them later this month. That vote is expected at the Sept. 21 board meeting.
The waivers would allow exemptions from state requirements on attendance, instructional minutes and the Civics Exam. Assistant superintendent for teaching and learning Lisa Kvistad told the board the waivers would allow flexibility for whatever learning model is in place as the year goes on.
“We want to be prepared, we want to be proactive, we don’t want to be reacting depending on the situation that we’re in,” Kvistad said.
The district, along with most around the state, received a number of waivers in the spring as it implemented an emergency virtual learning program.
On instructional minutes, district interim legal counsel Sherry Terrell-Webb pointed to state rules that don’t allow districts to count minutes on days when there are parent-teacher conferences, “even if the kids are learning on those days,” or when there is staff professional development or in-service. Districts must offer a minimum number of instructional minutes to students.
“While we do believe that we will actually meet the state and DPI requirements, there are a couple carve-outs in the statutes that require us to ask for this waiver at this time,” Terrell-Webb said. “This is just to make sure when we’ve developed a plan and sort of co-mingled our days in different ways that we are able to actually meet what DPI requires, even though we will technically be meeting it.”
For attendance, executive director of student and staff support Jay Affeldt said the waivers would focus on exemptions from the truancy standards. For example, truancy notification rules require a notice to parents to include information about imprisonment or fines that can come if their child remains truant from school.
“Given our uncertain times and when our positive and supportive relationships with families are so critical, we would rather not be compelled to use this specific language,” Affeldt said.
The Civics Exam waiver is all about timing, director of pathways and secondary programs Cindy Green explained, as much of the content for that exam is included in the first semester U.S. history class for ninth-graders and they don't currently have a way to administer the exam virtually.
“We would be concerned about students having to wait after receiving the content knowledge,” she said.
Board member Cris Carusi asked staff to provide more detailed information on the waivers before the board votes Sept. 21.
“Before we vote I want to know specifically what I’m voting for or against,” Carusi said.
While Terrell-Webb said it would mostly be check boxes on a general waiver form that DPI has set up for this year, superintendent Carlton Jenkins assured board members staff would make it clear what they would be voting on.
“I want you to definitely get all the information you need,” Jenkins said.
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