MCPASD Board of Education Approves Plan for All Grades to Return to School in a Hybrid Model for 2021


Mia Burkholder/ MCPASD TV

Superintendent Monogue presented a blended model plan and implementation timeline at the Board of Education meeting on Dec. 21. The board was joined by several members of the district administrative team, Dr. Wald and Dr. Sabrina Butteris (UW Department of Pediatrics, MCPASD medical advisors), and principals from all MCPASD schools.

On Monday, Dec. 21, the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) Board of Education voted unanimously to send students back to school in a 2-1-2 model starting Feb. 2021. The board formally approved grades Pre-K through 4 to return to elementary schools on Feb. 1 with Kindergarten orientation occurring on Jan. 28 and 29. Members also approved tentative target dates for MCPASD middle and high schoolers to return, with middle schoolers starting a 2-1-2 model on Feb. 22 and high schoolers on Mar. 11. The board plans for 5th grade orientation and freshman orientation to happen on Feb. 18–19 and Mar. 4–5 respectively. 

Superintendent Monogue reviewed the benefits of the 2-1-2 model at the Dec. 21 meeting. She also explained why MCPASD is choosing to split students into two cohorts. (Mia Burkholder)

The board highlighted that the dates for secondary school students to return are subject to change. Board members will visit middle and high school campuses to view virus mitigation procedures in late January before formally approving start dates on the Jan. 25 board meeting. 

MCPASD has been following guidelines set by Public Health Madison-Dane County (PHMDC) in order to safely reopen schools. Last week, PHMDC changed their guidelines, causing administrators to pivot: “There are no longer metrics to use, but instead a description of a small set of requirements and recommendations. The requirements center on policies and protocols schools need to have in place,” said Superintendent Dana Monogue. 

Superintendent Monogue reviews the new guidelines set by PHMDC. MCPASD planning teams are working to follow all requirements in order to keep students safe when they return to school. (Mia Burkholder / MCPASD TV)

Previously, MCPASD had been planning to send students in the elementary schools back to school in a half-day model. Planning teams had to set aside this model after the updated guidelines from PHMDC were released last week. Due to this, teams are still working on plans for lunch, recess, and virus mitigation at the elementary level. 4K, however, will still return in a half-day model.

Teams are in the early stages of planning at the secondary level as well. Prior to last week, Monogue did not expect secondary students to return to school during the 2020-2021 school year, and said “[middle and high school staff] had been working on making improvements to the current models we have in place, not thinking they would now be asked to quickly consider the development of a 2-1-2 model at [secondary] levels.” In order to switch the focus from improving online learning to creating a safe hybrid model, planning teams will be reaching out to other school districts across the state that have returned to school safely in a 2-1-2 model. Teams are also ensuring that their pandemic planning checklist is completed before students return, preparing safety protocols, instruction methods, student traffic flow procedures, and more.

The procedures outlined on this slide from Monogue’s presentation will be implemented at all grade levels. More information on these protocols can be found on the district website under COVID-19 Updates and Resources, including an updated video on specific virus mitigation protocol in the elementary schools. (Mia Burkholder / MCPASD TV)

Monogue explained that “in the first full weeks of school, many adults will be present in hallways and outside of facilities to reinforce protocols.” Some secondary school staff will help students to follow health and safety procedures before middle and high school students return in a blended model. MCPASD also hopes to help students assimilate to the new environment by allowing Kindergarteners, 5th graders, and freshmen to have orientation before the hybrid model officially begins.

Dr. Ellen Wald of the Department of Pediatrics at UW Health said students ages 11-18 are now encouraged to return to school rather than learn virtually, as recommended by PHMDC prior to their latest update, because the number of cases per day in Wisconsin has decreased from 7,000 in mid-November to 3,000 recently. She also noted that the number of cases per day is much lower in Dane County.  This information, along with virus mitigation procedures MCPASD plans to implement, made her confident that it is beneficial for students to return to schools in a hybrid model. 

“If we’re able to maintain physical distancing, the use of masks, the hand washing, the cleaning of the environment, and the cohorting of the kids as best as is possible, that goes a long way to keeping control of the situation,” said Wald. “I think we can’t expect that there will be no cases — that’s not a realistic expectation. But I think if we are able to adhere to those mitigation strategies we’ll keep it at an absolute minimum and if cases occur, we’ll know exactly who we need to quarantine.” 

Monogue acknowledged that a blended model will have flaws, but believes that the benefits of returning in a 2-1-2 model outweigh the risks. She also noted that there are varied opinions when it comes to in-person education during a pandemic. By offering a fully virtual education model in addition to the universal model, Monogue hopes that students and families will be able to make a decision that works for their lifestyle. 

MCPASD offers two educational models for students, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Families must choose their educational model for second semester by Jan. 5. (Mia Burkholder / MCPASD TV)

The district sent out a survey to families to determine which learning plan their student(s) will participate in for second semester. The survey is due on Jan. 5 so that planning teams can organize cohorts, class lists, and staffing plans.

MCPASD expects many students to switch from the universal model to the fully virtual model, meaning that staff and classes may be shuffled in order to have consistent class sizes and enough support for fully virtual students. The district hopes that this shift will allow staff with health conditions and concerns about returning to school to remain teaching virtually.

Students in special education or English as a Second Language (ESL) programs will be able receive specialized services in either learning plan. After students have confirmed their decision, staff will communicate with families to revise programs and reallocate staff as necessary. 

After Monogue’s presentation, the board discussed their questions and concerns regarding reopening MCPASD schools, emphasizing staff and students’ mental health. Some board members believe that returning to school will help with students’ feelings of isolation, while others think it may cause more confusion: “I remain very confused about the mental health of our students, even in returning to school. I want everybody to understand that this is not normal school, that this is going to be very confusing for a lot of children, especially the younger ones for whom they’ve spent the last 6, 7, 8 years of their life learning how to be social and now they have to unlearn everything they knew, especially for those who are new in their buildings. The idea that we would be sending them back because it will help with the isolation, I appreciate the sentiment but at the same time, obviously, they still are somewhat isolated from each other…” said board member Katy Morgan, echoing sentiments of a few other members. MCPASD plans to make videos to send home to families in order to spark discussions on how school expectations will be different. Middleton High School principal Peg Shoemaker also noted that emotional support will be available for students and staff, along with support on how to teach in a hybrid model. 

Although many details have yet to be formalized, MCPASD is excited to welcome students back to their schools. As Superintendent Monogue says, “Despite all of these differing experiences and opinions, there seems to be a consensus regarding a desire to create a plan to welcome students back into schools that is aligned with public health recommendations and the advice of the community.”

The dates for middle and high school students to return to school will be confirmed or denied on Jan. 25. That meeting will be livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.


Watch the Dec. 21 Board of Education meeting here. Read the extended agenda and meeting minutes here.

Read a related article here: MCPASD Board Meeting Discusses Revised Plan for Reopening