Board Reviews Reopening, Reduction of Relief Funds

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Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The Middleton Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) Board of Education reviewed the latest updates to the district’s in-person blended instruction as the next grade level of students is phased in. While elementary students began Feb. 1, middle school students had their first day back on the day of the board meeting Feb. 22. High school students are set to begin Mar. 11. 

Superintendent Dana Monogue said the blended instruction model at the elementary level has been going great since it started. While 20 students reported testing positive for COVID-19 there are no cases reported that are associated with MCPASD as of Feb. 23.

Virtual instruction is also going well for families that are choosing not to return to in-person instruction, Monogue said. She noted families will not be able change models after high school students begin on March 11.

Monogue said she wants the district to be able to offer more than two days a week if in-person instruction especially for elementary students. She will bring a recommendation to the board to increase in-person learning for elementary students on March 8.

“We want to do this as soon as we are able to safely and in accordance with Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) requirements for schools,” Monogue said.

She said the medical doctors who have been advising the board will join again on March 8 to review the local COVID-19 health data and variants of the virus that have been spreading.

“We need to remain vigilant with all of our virus mitigation protocols and contact tracing efforts so that we can keep students and staff as safe as possible,” Monogue said. 

She noted that at the next meeting the board will also be presented with the results of the school resource officer (SRO) program review looking at five years of data, results of surveys and themes from focus groups. On March 22, the administration will propose a recommendation of a plan.

Monogue said offering in-person instruction more than two days a week would require that all staff be vaccinated and a change in the physical distancing requirements.

“If we need to continue to adhere to six feet of physical distancing in our schools to the greatest extent possible, we would need to remain in a blended learning model,” Monogue said. “The current health order expires on March 10 and Dane County superintendents continue to advocate to PHMDC regarding a change to the physical distancing requirement particularly at the elementary level.”

A mass vaccination is scheduled for all Dane County school staff Mar. 5-7 and Mar. 12-14 at the Alliant Energy Center. All school district health care providers and PHMDC are working collaboratively, Monogue said. Vaccine distribution has been a challenge, but it seems likely to happen, although PHMDC will only move forward if enough vaccines are received, she explained. 

Board member Anne Bauer asked if 4K staff will be included in vaccine drive. Monogue said they would be.

Director of Business Services Lori Ames explained changes in the second round of emergency relief funds by the state’s Joint Finance Committee. The distribution of funds is now based on how long a school district has been offering in-person instruction.

Ames said as a result of the change MCPASD will receive $2,196,035 less in emergency relief funds than what was projected by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) a couple weeks ago.

She said the district is working with DPI to see what days can be counted. The data will have to be collected through the rest of the year and submitted after that. Any funding will likely come in the fall. 

Ames said the district is also working with other districts to inform legislators of the impacts the funding has on schools.

Board member Katy Morgan asked what impact the reduced funds will have. Monogue said the funds were earmarked for summer school, technology and PPE. All emergency relief funds will be used for summer school.

Morgan asked what the district policy is on communicating positive tests. Ames said contract tracers determine all close contacts and communicate directly with those people. Office staff send a notification letter to everyone in school and everyone who visited that day.

School board president Annette Ashley asked how much the district is working with Dane County on contact tracing. Ames said for a time it was only the district but now they are working collaboratively with the county as its workload has dropped with the number of new cases.

Bauer asked about students traveling and having to quarantine before returning to school. Monogue said communication is going out to families on expectations for students who are voluntarily quarantining. 

Morgan asked if staff are expected to limit travel. Monogue said if staff travel, they are asked to voluntary quarantine and exercise good judgement.

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