CDC introduces new guidelines for schools, local districts to use summer break for planning

MADISON, Wis.– The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new set of guidelines for a safe return to school next fall, which would dramatically change the way schools operate.

The guidelines suggest implementing modified layouts, physical barriers, closed communal spaces, face coverings and more. It also compares the risk of continuing virtual learning, completely going back to school, or a hybrid of both models.

The CDC guidelines do not have to be introduced in schools, however most local health departments will help districts determine which guidelines should be in place in different areas.

“School districts are going to have to consult with their local health authorities. There will be statewide guidance. There is federal guidance, but that’s guidance,” Senior Policy Advisor at Wisconsin Department of Instruction Jennifer Kammerud said. “At the end of the day, the district will need to work with the local health authority.”

With over 400 schools in Wisconsin, Kammerud said plans won’t look the same across the board.

“There are going to be a lot of different models that are operating. It’s going to be dependent on the health situation, and on the facility of the school district, and the availability of Internet broadband at home, and the hardware to access that Internet, that virtual learning,” Kammerud said. “I think that districts have the opportunity right now to plan ahead and put those in place.”

Madison Metropolitan School District is in the process of working on a plan, with many contingency plans, in preparation for anything that could happen in the fall.

“Our plans need to be flexible to give us the ability to adapt to either a virtual environment or an in-person environment in a very short period of time,” MMSD Spokesperson Tim LeMonds said. “One thing we are not being flexible on, and that is our decisions and our planning being grounded in the health and safety of our own students and our staff and our families. That is what is at the core of our planning and decision making.”

Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District is also working through the summer to figure out what the best plan or plans is for next school year.

“People would like to have answers today. They probably would’ve liked to have answers yesterday, but that’s what summer is going to be for,” MCPASD Perry Hibner said. “When we start in the fall, we want to make sure whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it well.”

Hibner said the district will evaluate guidelines from the federal, state and local levels before deciding what is best for their community.