With less than a month left in the chaotic 2020-21 school year, attention is beginning to turn to the fall.
On Thursday, the head of the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union, Randi Weingarten, said, "There is no doubt: Schools must be open. In person. Five days a week."
In Madison, if that will be the case remains uncertain. Madison Metropolitan School District spokesman Tim LeMonds wrote in an email Friday that “MMSD has not yet officially announced the details of our instructional model for the 2021/22 school year,” with a hope to announce plans “by the end of June.”
“Regardless of what our in-person learning model ends up being, we will continue to provide families with virtual learning options for grades 6-12,” LeMonds wrote. “In the upcoming weeks, we will be surveying families on preferences.”
In the April 28 family newsletter, superintendent Carlton Jenkins wrote that he is “already excited and looking forward to a more normal and familiar school experience when our students and families return for the 2021-2022 school year.”
Madison Teachers Inc. spokeswoman Michelle Michalak wrote in an email that the union “will continue to work with MMSD on prioritizing the health and safety of the MMSD community, including the importance of having students in school.”
“Of course all of our educators want to be back full-swing in the fall,” Michalak wrote. “Conditions have changed so many times during the past year, it is too early to say for sure what next year will look like.”
MTI and the district clashed this year over reopening plans, and some teachers held a "teach-out" following the district announcing its timeline for in-person learning this spring. The evolving science throughout the school year indicated that children were not "super spreaders" of the virus as initially feared, but that the dangers of being in school was likely related to the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
MMSD recently completed its phased return to in-person learning, with all grades now having an in-person option for at least two days each week. About 68% of students districtwide chose the in-person option initially, leaving the rest continuing to learn from home.
The School Board approved $840,000 in funding for a virtual Madison Promise Academy in the fall that’s expected to serve 200-250 students in grades 6-12. It’s unclear what options will be if there are more students who want to continue virtual learning.
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