‘The fall reentry has been solid’: First day of MMSD virtual learning runs smoothly

MADISON, Wis. — The first day of school is usually filled with the sounds of students shuffling between classes, opening and closing lockers and catching up in the hallways. This year, the hallways are met with silence as students begin their first day of virtual learning.

“It’s different, I’ll tell you that. It’s been a different experience,” said Chief of Schools Elementary Education Dr. Tremayne Clardy.

Clardy said elementary schools across the Madison Metropolitan School District look similar: mostly empty.

“What we miss most is that personal interaction,” he said. We are so used to high fives and fist bumps.”

Clardy took us on a walk-through of Lowell Elementary, a building that normally holds about 350 students that now only has about 30 students spread out inside.  The students who are in the building are part of the MSCR program that’s offered for families who can’t leave their children at home.

The students maintain a six-foot distance between them at all times and wear masks at all times, except when eating.

“The fall reentry has been solid, on-point,” Clardy said. “We have tremendous teaching staff that worked so hard throughout the summer and beyond to prepare for the reentry for our students. There may have been some minor hiccups here and there but overall, we are very pleased.”

Students and teachers are working from home leaving the classrooms at Lowell Elementary vacant and dark. Clardy said although the learning experience is a major adjustment for everyone this year, the virtual process is going well so far.

“There are lots of smiles across the screens and that’s what we are most happy to see. Our students are resilient.”

Even though no one can hear or see that resilience in the hallways this year Clardy said he is confident that the hopeful success of virtual learning will speak for itself.

“We are going to continue to accelerate instruction, accelerate engagement,” he said. “We were really intentional with making sure our most marginalized families got special attention and we are very proud of the work we have done to prepare our students for this year. We are going to have a great year. We’re ready.”

Clardy said the district will re-evaluate how to proceed with the rest of the school year in November.