Local school districts take new public health recommendation into consideration

MADISON, Wis.– Public Health looked well beyond Dane County itself to make a key change.

“With strong mitigation measures in place, schools can operate safely,” Director Janel Heinrich said.

Heinrich said national and international data shows that’s especially true for grade school kids.

“It’s strongest for the younger ages around having those mitigation practices work in the school setting for risk of transmission to be lowest,” Heinrich said.

That’s why she suggests a phased approach in going back to class, beginning with lower grades.

“A phased approach supports everyone to be comfortable with what we’re asking them to do,” Heinrich said.

This new recommendation comes as local school districts are deciding how to return after winter break.

“Even though these new guideline have not really changed our approach to our decision making for third quarter, it may change the guidance that we receive from our public health officials, which is something that will be considered,” a Madison Metropolitan School District spokesperson Tim LeMonds said.

LeMonds said the superintendent is considering three options: remain all virtual, send grades kindergarten through 2nd back or send all grades back.

“Regardless of which of those three options, we are are going to be prepared to implement those,” LeMonds said.

While public health is one factor in the decision making process, LeMonds said there are other things to consider, most importantly how it affects the families.

“Let’s not forget we are also a school community that tragically and recently lost an amazing student to COVID-19,” LeMonds said. “So, these are the kind of things we are going to consider.”

MMSD promises families a decision will be made by Jan. 8.

MMSD is hosting a live, interactive Facebook event on Thursday, when parents will have the opportunity to ask any questions they might have.

Sun Prairie Area School District will expand hybrid learning to include grades 3rd through 5th at the end of January. The district brought grades kindergarten through 2nd in December.