Board Increases In-person Instruction for Middle School, Keeps Two-Day High School Schedule

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Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The Middleton Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) Board of Education voted to increase in-person instruction for middle school students to four days a week beginning April 19. High school students will continue with two days of in-person instruction through the end of the 2020-21 school year. 

Superintendent Dana Monogue explained the administration recommendation to have middle school students attend four days a week. The start date of April 19 is intended to provide a buffer to limit the potential spread of COVID-19 from traveling during spring break. 

Wednesday will remain as a planning day for staff and virtual independent instruction for students. Educators have to plan for in-person and virtual instruction because they are teaching students in the room and over Zoom simultaneously.

The board’s decision not to switch to four days of in-person instruction for high schoolers was based on the space limitations imposed by the ongoing construction at Middleton High School which addresses overcrowding.

Monogue said all students have started the blended learning model and there have been a few incidents of COVID-19 infections. At Middleton High School (MHS) 16 students tested positive with one of those associated with MCPASD, 33 students are currently quarantining and four are in isolation.

She noted the CDC has updated its recommendations for schools to allow for three feet of distancing, but she said three feet will not be possible in all situations with all students in the buildings at once. She said each school is working out eating arrangements for students.

Deputy Superintendent Sherri Cyra said teachers and staff have mixed feelings about increasing in-person instruction to four days a week. She noted staff have said it is harder now for younger students to engage on virtual-instruction days. 

Kromrey Middle School Principal Dom Ricks said if all students return, social distancing of three feet will not be possible in each classroom and most students will sit about one foot apart.

Ricks said that means students will have about 40 close contacts throughout the day. Cohorting is also not possible with all students returning making contact tracing more challenging if a student tests positive for COVID-19.

Board member Bob Green asked if there is information available about school closures for quarantine that have not been able to social distance. Monogue said there is not a statewide database of school and classroom closures, but there have been consistent reports of schools and classrooms closing for quarantine.

MHS Principal Peg Shoemaker explained that the ongoing construction at the high school restricts space and it would be difficult to create a safe environment for students to eat.

During the public comment period of the board meeting a teacher spoke asking the board not to implement a four day in-person schedule and use this time to learn from the system that is already in place.

A parent also asked the board not to implement the four-day schedule while another parent asked the board to return all students to a five-day in-person schedule.

School board president Annette Ashley reviewed written comments submitted to the board, one which favors the increase at middle school, five which favor an increase at high school, nine in favor of the increase at both levels and six opposed to the increase at both levels.

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