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‘Preparing for pretty much everything’: Plans still up in the air for Madison schools in fall

‘Preparing for pretty much everything’: Plans still up in the air for Madison schools in fall

Coronavirus School Illustration (copy)

MMSD officials say they will make decisions on how and whether to re-open schools in the fall with CDC guidance and input from state and local public health officials.

The day after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published guidelines for schools to consider for reopening, Madison school officials said they’re “preparing for pretty much everything” ahead of the fall.

“Certainly the CDC guidelines give us a bit of a roadmap, but we also know that things are changing pretty quickly,” said Madison Metropolitan School District director of student and staff support Jay Affeldt. “We’re literally preparing for any potential scenario when we reopen, which could be a combination of in-person, virtual or blended together.”

Interim superintendent Jane Belmore said the district has “a team dedicated to researching this issue,” including gathering feedback from students and families on their virtual learning experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Much of our timeline for planning is actually affected by external factors,” Belmore said. “Our plans will need to be very flexible, giving us the ability to adapt to either environment in a very short period of time.”

Whatever is decided, Belmore said, it “will be grounded in health and safety for our students, staff and families.”

[Madison School District expects to update 2020-21 budget into summer, fall]

The CDC guidelines outline three stages of decision-making for school districts. The first set of questions for districts to answer is:

  • Will reopening be consistent with applicable state and local orders?
  • Is the school ready to protect children and employees at higher risk for severe illness?
  • Are you able to screen students and employees upon arrival for symptoms and history of exposure?

The third of those, specifically, “would certainly be a heavy lift, but it’s certainly something that we can plan for,” Affeldt said. He added that they are discussing the availability of personal protective equipment for staff and students.

If all of those questions can be answered with a “yes,” the CDC guidelines ask districts to consider healthy hygiene practices, intensify cleaning, social distancing and train staff on health and safety protocols.

In the third and final stage, districts are to encourage anyone who is sick to stay home, develop and implement procedures to check for symptoms “daily upon arrival, as feasible” and have flexible leave policies and practices.

Affeldt said they will make decisions with the CDC guidance and state and local public health officials.

“Those three will sort of shape what it is we ultimately land on,” he said.

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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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