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Wisconsin DPI releases guidelines for reopening schools this fall: ‘Proactive approach’

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MILWAUKEE -- The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) on Monday, June 22 published Education Forward, a guidance document for Wisconsin district and school leaders to use as they plan for a safe, efficient, and equitable return to school for the 2020-21 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the very first page, State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor writes that she expects schools will reopen in the fall — but they will undoubtedly look different.

CLICK HERE to read all of the Education Forward document

The last school year ended with buildings closed and kids open to distance learning.

"We want to make sure kids are still having access to high quality, well-rounded education in the state," said Tamara Mouw, Director of Teaching and Learning. "So these are just guidelines and considerations that each local district would take a look at and think about what works best for their context, thinking about the health needs are in their community think through an equity lens what did the families need in their communities and developing a plan based on those considerations."

The plan includes a mix of in-person and virtual learning. Those include the following:

Four-Day Week

  • Each student level (elementary, middle, and high school) reports to school, outdoor learning spaces, or community-based organizations four full days a week. Schools are closed on the fifth day to allow for deep-cleaning.
  • Students are provided with virtual learning materials—digital, analog, or a combination of the two formats—to support learning on those days when they do not report to school for in-person learning.
  • All English learner, special education, gifted and talented, and resource teachers work with small groups of students to reduce the student-teacher ratios to 10/1 or fewer in each learning environment. Learning in outdoor spaces or partnerships with community-based organizations may be needed to keep student-teacher ratios to 10/1 or fewer.
  • One day per week is used for teacher planning and professional learning. On this day, students do not report to school but virtual learning continues.

Two-Day Rotation

  • All students report to school, outdoor learning spaces, or community-based organizations two full days per week (Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday).
  • Students are provided with virtual learning materials—digital, analog, or a combination of the two formats— to support learning on those days when they do not report to school for in-person learning.
  • All English learner, special education, gifted and talented, and resource teachers work with small groups of
    students to reduce the student-teacher ratios to 10/1 or fewer in each learning environment. Learning in outdoor spaces or partnerships with community-based organizations may be needed to keep student-teacher ratios to 10/1 or fewer.
  • One day per week is used for teacher planning and professional learning. On this day, students do not report to school but virtual learning continues.

A/B Week Rotation

  • Half of the student population reports to school, outdoor learning spaces, or community-based organizations four full days per week for in-person learning while the other half of the school population participates in virtual learning at home. The two student groups alternate between in-person and virtual learning weekly. All grade bands are included.
  • Students are provided with virtual learning materials—digital, analog, or a combination of the two formats—to support learning on those days when
    they do not report to school for in-person learning.
  • All English learner, special education, gifted and talented, and resource teachers work with small groups of students to reduce the student-teacher ratios to 10/1 or fewer in each learning environment. Learning in outdoor spaces or partnerships with community-based organizations may be needed to keep student-teacher ratios to 10/1 or fewer.
  • One day per week is used for teacher planning and professional learning. Students do not report to school on these days but continue
    learning independently.

Elementary Face-to-Face and Secondary Virtual Learning

  • Elementary students start back to school first, before other levels.
  • Elementary students attend four full days per week and are distributed
    across multiple sites (e.g., elementary and middle school buildings) to reduce the student-teacher ratio in accordance with physical distancing recommendations.
  • Secondary students continue to engage in virtual learning.
  • Students are provided with virtual learning materials—digital, analog, or a combination of the two formats—to support learning on those days when they do not report to school for in-person learning.
  • All English learner, special education, gifted and talented, and resource teachers work with small groups of students to reduce the student-teacher ratios to 10/1 or fewer in each learning environment. Learning in outdoor spaces or partnerships with community-based organizations may be needed to keep student-teacher ratios to 10/1 or fewer.
  • One day per week is used for teacher planning and professional learning. Students do not report to school on these days but continue learning independently.

"I do know that districts, if we take that proactive approach that districts and educators will be in a situation in a way, we can continue to have high expectations for all learners and if there are some gaps to happen we can fill those gaps in time," Mouw said.

When it comes to virtual learning, money from the CARES Act will support school districts around remote learning options. As it relates to health and safety, the document suggests staggering events like lunch, arrival, and dismissal to help encourage social distancing. It also suggests daily health checks of students and staff if possible.

Again, this document is just a guideline, each district now has to make a decision over the summer.

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