Verona Area School District plans phased return of in-person instruction

District asks families to choose between in-person, all-virtual learning

VERONA, Wis. — The Verona Area School District is planning to make in-person learning available for students of all grade levels.

On Monday, the district sent families a letter asking them to choose between a mix of in-person and virtual learning or virtual learning only for the upcoming spring semester. Students choosing the hybrid model would attend in-person school two days a week and learn virtually the other three days.

Students would either attend in person Tuesday and Wednesday or Thursday and Friday. Students would not be in-person on Mondays.

The letter outlining the options was sent home to families of middle and high school students Monday afternoon. Though administrators make the final call whether to offer in-person instruction, the plan itself was a main topic of discussion at a board meeting Monday night.

District leaders also discussed plans to bring elementary-aged students back at the end of January. Currently, in-person instruction is only offered for grades K-2. They said enough families were interested in all-virtual learning that there would be at least one all-virtual classroom per grade.

District plans have in-person instruction for grades 6-12 beginning on Feb. 9. Daily start and stop times would depend on transportation needs and would be shared in the upcoming weeks.

At the board meeting, district leaders discussed how best to follow public health guidelines. Public Health Madison & Dane County just released its reopening recommendations last week.

During public comment, a letter from a few educators was read aloud.

“Frankly, the idea of being face-to-face with hundreds of students weekly to deliver our specific content during a pandemic is very concerning to us,” the letter said. “If we were to transition to in-person concurrent instruction we would not feel safe being exposed to hundreds of students each week even with social distancing and mask protocols in place.”

At the same time as the board meeting, a previously-scheduled protest calling for the return to in-person classes took place outside the administration building.

“I think the mental aspect of it is really, really weighing on my kids and everyone else’s kids,” said Naomi Arreola ahead of the protest. She has three children in the district: a kindergartener, seventh grader and sophomore. Only her youngest has been attending some in person classes.

“He absolutely loves school,” Arreola said. “He gets up every day and says, ‘Can I go to school today?’”

She wants the same for her oldest, who have been learning entirely virtually.

“The structure, the interaction with teachers — just the video is not the same,” Arreola said. I’ve got both my kids in band. That’s a lost cause now, which is incredibly sad. There’s only a certain amount of time you can do those fun things in life.”

For Arreola, getting the letter letting her know her older students could start attending class two days a week was great news.

“In 2020, we have to be happy with baby steps,” Arreola said.

A spokesperson for the district said the letter was sent to middle and high school families to get feedback and so they can start planning how to determine factors such as bus routes.

Families are asked to make their decision by January 5.

The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District is also planning for a return to in-person learning next semester. Board members approved in-person instruction next semester for prekindergarten through fourth grade on Monday night, with plans to review a phased return for middle and high schoolers at a later date.