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Third-party report finds MMSD COVID-19 mitigation measures 'meet or exceed' recommendations

Third-party report finds MMSD COVID-19 mitigation measures 'meet or exceed' recommendations

La Follette Hybrid Prep 021121 11-02112021222345 (copy)

Desks have been spaced to allow for social distancing in a classroom at La Follette High School. This and other preparations have began for an eventual shift to hybrid, in-person learning.

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A third-party report reviewing efforts by the Madison Metropolitan School District to limit the spread of COVID-19 found the district met or exceeded recommendations from various agencies.

Building company McKinstry completed the 176-page report, dated Feb. 26 and posted on the district’s reopening website Tuesday, following visits to five school buildings.

Based on its site observations and a review of documentation of the COVID-19 mitigation protocols in MMSD and other school districts in Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, the reviewers wrote "it is clear that the steps taken by MMSD to ensure the safety of its students, staff, parents, and other visitors meet or exceed recommendations" from entities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dane County.

Madison Teachers Inc. had asked the district to address building-by-building steps the district took to ensure a safe learning environment, among its set of questions posed to administration and the School Board following the reopening announcement. While this does not address every part of the questions MTI asked — including reports of no hot water and whether rooms had been modified to allow for distancing — it addresses a major question from staff on ventilation issues.

Reviewers checked air filters at Emerson, Sandburg and Elvehjem elementary schools, the Marquette elementary and O’Keeffe middle schools shared building and La Follette High School. They wrote in the report that the district had improved filtration, increased outside air volume entering the buildings and installed extra HEPA filters in nurse’s stations and isolation rooms in buildings where a COVID-19-positive individual is more likely to be.

The reviewers recommended that as the temperature increases into the spring and summer, the district “should consider increasing the amount of outside air being brought into the spaces.”

[65% of Madison School District kindergartners plan to return for in-person learning]

McKinstry’s report also complimented the district’s other mitigation efforts, including surface cleaning, corridor markings, mask requirements and facilitating adequate distancing between students.

“Based on the air handling system improvements combined with the other physical / behavioral COVID 19 safety measures and protocols in place; it is McKinstry’s opinion that MMSD is taking more than adequate COVID 19 mitigation measures to provide their staff, students, parents, and other visitors with a safe environment to learn and work in,” the report states.

Some staff members have expressed ongoing concerns over the district’s plan to bring students back beginning next Tuesday with kindergartners. First- and second-graders will return March 16 and 4-year-old kindergarten students on March 23.

[Some MMSD staff continue to push against district reopening plan]

More than 300 staff members signed an open letter Monday asking the district to delay the reopening until staff are vaccinated, and some are participating in a “teach out” Thursday morning.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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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