MMSD to return to in-person learning Jan. 10

MADISON, Wis. — Students with the Madison Metropolitan School District will return to in-person classes Monday, Jan. 10 as originally planned, district officials announced Thursday.

“We recognize this week has affected our scholars, families, and staff in many ways,” MMSD Superintendent Dr. Carlton D. Jenkins said. “ We appreciate our school community’s patience and understanding. Although we prefer our scholars to be connecting in-person with teachers and staff while learning in our classrooms, this necessary pause strengthened our ability to sustain remaining open safely.”

The district first announced plans to delay students’ return to in-person learning late last week, citing rising COVID-19 case counts among students and staff that district officials said had a “significant impact” on MMSD staffing levels, limiting the district’s ability to meet demands for tests and personal protective equipment.

Because of the Omicron variant’s continued spread, district leaders said families should expect brief classroom closures depending on staffing levels in district buildings.

RELATED: As Madison schools make virtual return, child care needs increase

In the days since the district first announced the temporary shift to virtual learning, district leaders said they met to plan several booster clinic and testing sites, gather rapid and PCR tests, modify their contact tracing strategy and plan around current staff shortages.

During a special Wednesday night Board of Education meeting, district leaders said they planned to make their decision based on the latest COVID-19 data and case counts.

According to the district’s COVID-19 case count dashboard, which was last updated Thursday, 297 students and staff tested positive for the disease within the last two weeks. Of those, 165 cases were confirmed among students and 132 among staff.

MMSD officials said students are “strongly encouraged” to be tested for COVID-19 prior to their return to class. Any students who are showing symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19 should visit one of the district’s testing sites to get tested themselves.

Throughout Dane County, public health officials and health care providers have struggled to handle the recent surge in cases, citing staffing shortages caused by COVID-19 infections as a driving factor. Thursday morning, representatives from Madison’s three major hospitals announced the facilities have reached capacity due to the ongoing surge.