‘That’s ever-evolving’: Online teaching a possibility as MMSD discusses COVID-19 contingency plans


MADISON, Wis. – As the Green Bay Area Catholic Education school system announces it’s shifting classes online, area school districts are discussing their response plans to COVID-19.

The Madison Metropolitan School District sent a letter to families and staff saying schools will be kept open unless a student or staff member in that school is confirmed to have coronavirus.

“That may change in a week or two, where you’re seeing some districts across the country closing all the schools within the district,” said Tim Lemonds, MMSD public information officer. “That’s ever-evolving.

The district also plans to follow guidelines from Public Health Madison & Dane County, canceling or postponing large events and gatherings, imposing travel restrictions and implementing social distancing measures.

“These are conditions school districts have never faced before,” Lemonds said, adding that the district has a dedicated team working on making coronavirus contingency plans daily that is in frequent contact with health officials.

Still, much is up in the air, including what would happen if a school or schools were to close. Lemonds said possibilities include simply closing a school and making up days at the end of the year or making the transition to virtual teaching.

He said that would involve making individualized plans for students who need them, training teachers in online instruction, figuring out if students have adequate resources and potentially providing them with tools like internet hot spots.

“Just knowing we’re planning for things can raise anxiety levels,” Lemonds said. “It’s important for us to communicate to people that we are in a precautionary stance. We are doing this to mitigate issues down the road. We are doing things to be prepared in case it does happen, but it’s not here today.”

MMSD is collaborating with districts throughout the state to make sure everything is covered, Lemonds said.

“We feel that our pace is right on,” he said. “We are working with local officials and school districts to figure out what’s coming and how we’re going to be prepared for that.”

Teachers at Verona Area High School will be explaining to students how virtual learning would work next week in case officials decide to close the school, according to a letter to parents.

“Several schools around the nation have had to close due to the spread of this illness,” the note said. “This may or may not happen here in the Verona Area, but either way, this is an opportunity for us to prepare both teachers and students to access classes while at home.”