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New state order extends school closures until at least April 24

New state order extends school closures until at least April 24

Wisconsin schools will remain closed for in-person instruction and extracurricular activities until at least April 24 under the “Safer At Home” order issued Tuesday by Gov. Tony Evers and the state Department of Health Services.

The order, which limits business operations and individual activity to only those deemed essential beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday, also will keep public and private K-12 schools closed. Facilities can still be used to facilitate virtual or distance learning activities and food distribution under the order.

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The governor previously ordered schools closed “until further notice” last week amid a slew of orders responding to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Before that, he had ordered schools closed from 5 p.m. March 18 through at least April 5.

The rapidly evolving situation has left schools scrambling to provide food for families who need it and working through challenges of offering virtual learning. Some Dane County districts began virtual learning last week, while others are planning to soon.

The Madison Metropolitan School District announced Friday it hopes to roll out virtual learning beginning April 6, with staff professional development and training the week prior. The district also mailed home some “enrichment materials” for students in the meantime, and is providing breakfast and lunch meals at 10 sites Monday through Friday.

[Cap Times coverage of COVID-19]

On Saturday, Evers signed an order suspending requirements for districts to apply for a waiver for the state’s hours of instruction requirements. Districts still have to apply for a waiver, but it’s through a more basic form than usual. They also have to hold a public hearing on the waiver to be approved, according to the state Department of Public Instruction website.

In a statement released Monday, before details of Evers’ latest order were available, MMSD released a statement on its website outlining details about virtual learning, device pick up and general stress over the changes.

“There is a lot of worry and anxiety in our community as our families ask important questions about graduation, grades, and a possible extended school year to name a few,” the statement said. “Please know that we hear you. Districts across the state are grappling with these same questions, and please know that we are preparing for multiple scenarios of how to care for our community.”

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Scott Girard is the local k-12 education reporter at the Cap Times. A Madison native, he joined the paper in 2019 after working for six years for Unified Newspaper Group. Follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.

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