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Madison School Reopening Plan Includes Split Virtual and In-Person Classes for DHHS, Other Adaptations

Published July 28, 2020

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Madison Public Schools (MPS) released on July 24 its 111 page fall reopening plan that includes information about transportation, classroom and health procedures, cohorting, transportation, masks, mental health outreach, and numerous other topics as officials attempt to navigate the almost entirely uncharted waters of restarting school during a pandemic.

The plan was submitted to the state, as every district was required to provide a comprehensive individual reopening plan following guidelines that aim to have Connecticut schools begin this fall with in-person classes—something that many states and cities around the country have committed to, while others have balked.

Board of Education (BOE) Chair Katie Stein has cautioned that while Madison administrators are working to provide as much certainty as possible for the community, the progression of the pandemic and decisions made by state officials will continue to shape the path forward, with safety a primary concern and many specifics likely to change.

Many leading experts and governmental organizations have encouraged schools to reopen, though only with extensive precautions and only in areas where local coronavirus cases are under a certain degree of control.

MPS’s plan, which credits more than 100 school and town officials as contributors, paints a picture of significantly altered school routines, with hybrid remote and in-person classes for all high schoolers, elementary schoolers limited to core classrooms, fully pre-packaged meals, and the potential for a two- to five-day closure if a school experiences a positive COVID-19 case.

The entire document is available on the district’s website www.madison.k12.ct.us.

In case of a positive case of COVID-19 at a school, the building principal will contact the superintendent and Madison Health Director Trent Joseph, and parents will be notified of the exposure and any extra cleaning or potential closure, which would be decided on a case-by-case basis.

A district-wide move from in-person to fully remote learning would be made if there were a “substantial surge in local cases based on guidance from the State of Connecticut and/or the Madison Medical Advisor and Madison Health Department.”

Even with a full reopening, many changes and adaptations are being proposed, with some of the more dramatic ones affecting grades 9 to 12.

As the plan stands now, Daniel Hand High School (DHHS) students will be split into two large cohorts, each day attending half its of classes at the school and the other half at home, attending virtually.

Every student would be in school Monday through Friday under this model, which the plan emphasizes is “[s]ubject to change based on transportation needs and state feedback,” but there would only be around 500 students at the school at any given time, meaning extra classroom space for social distancing, as well as less daily transition periods in the hallway.

This also creates the opportunity for more space for any student who needs “additional supervision,” the plan reads.

In case of a new outbreak or any new surge of virus cases, the plan calls for cohorts to split time between fully virtual and fully in-person days, with two days in school and three days virtual per week.

The plan warns that “without the proposal as a consideration,” DHHS would only be able to keep three feet of social distancing space in some spaces and would have to impose other restrictions, including limiting elective choices and revising schedules.

For special education students, the plan promises continued pull-out services and co-taught classes, with changes implemented if “needed due [to] service hours or goals.”

English language learning students will be offered daily support as part of a cohort, according to the plan, and parents will have access to translation services, though the plan cautions that MPS schools “are not required to offer bilingual education.”

All teachers will be provided clear masks for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, the plan says.

The plan also says MPS anticipates having a Chromebook or other device for every student across all grade levels beginning in the fall, along with “additional equipment to support live streaming lessons from classrooms.”

Other district-wide changes include fully virtual parent meetings, cashless payment for lunches, disinfecting wipes in every classroom, and plans for more consistent assessments and tests partly facilitated by a new software platform called “Go Formative.”

Another district-wide program will focus on COVID-related traumas and disengaged learners, with procedures meant to “identify strategies to identify and engage populations and specific students that have been disengaged.”

Specific interventions include bringing in counselors to observe student behavior virtually when a student is struggling, and recording a weekly “engagement tracker.”

Additionally, every grade level will receive three universal lessons on COVID-related subjects, and parents will have access to a webinar mini-series.

Many procedures are school-specific, with every high school teacher being equipped with a measuring tape to “ensure social distancing requirements,” Ryerson converting its staff lounge to a “Reading Room” for interventions, and elementary schools partitioning recess time and space for each cohort, among many other things.

All the elementary schools also have plans to keep individual classes as cohorts, with related arts teachers “pushing in” to the classrooms on various rotating schedules.

Many questions are yet to be answered. The issue of teachers who do not feel comfortable returning to in-person learning is not addressed in the plan. Specific adjustments to parent pick-ups and drop-offs “are currently under development to accommodate increased traffic,” according to the plan, and potential changes to bus routes “will be available later this summer.”

The district is also working on a plan for “to supervise the hundreds of students who arrive well before 7:20 a.m. with no assigned place to wait for the start of period 1” at DHHS.

Sports is another area in which there is still plenty of uncertainty, with the district warning that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) has yet to make final decisions on the fall season- though the plan includes a waiver for students who wish to participate in summer conditioning activities in August.

Updates on athletics will be posted on the Polson and DHHS websites.

The plan, along with other reopening information, can be found at www.madison.k12.ct.us/reopening.


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