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Madison’s learning lockdown to continue

Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 16, 2020

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON — Doubling down on a half-year of educational failure, the Madison Metropolitan School District plans to continue virtual learning through Jan. 22, 2021. 

The really sad part is, district officials know just how inadequate their virtual model of learning has been. 

“This was an agonizing decision for all of us,” said MMSD Superintendent Carlton D. Jenkins in announcing Friday that Madison’s public schools would continue to lock down in-person learning through the second quarter. “It is always our preference to have students in school buildings, learning face to face and engaging with teachers and staff, however at the heart of this decision was our ultimate responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone who enters our buildings each day.” 

The district bowed to COVID-19 fear-mongering and the teachers union in coming to its expected decision. A press release issued Friday notes MMSD came to its decision after monitoring and reviewing local public health metrics; “in-depth consultation with scientists, health experts, focus groups, and internal as well as external advisory teams; feedback from district families and staff; recommendations from MMSD’s senior leadership team; and close collaboration with Madison Teachers Inc.”

It’s not clear whether the “health experts” included Stephanie Smiley, state Department of Health Services director of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases, who, as Wisconsin Spotlight reported this week, was an art teacher before joining DHS. Smiley, who is in charge of the state’s COVID-19 response, does not have degrees in medicine or science. 

While, DHS reports record COVID-19-positive cases and rising hospitalization rates, Wisconsin has not recorded a single death of people age infant to19. Data show 88 percent of Wisconsin’s 1,574 deaths (as of Friday) were age 60 and over. And 73 percent of deaths occurred in people age 70 and up. The vast majority of COVID-19 deaths involved people with multiple health issues, and the vast majority of people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus have recovered. 

Public Health Madison & Dane County’s school reopening guidelines, even before the latest outbreak, were unachievable. The metrics for middle and high schools demand a 14-day average of 19 COVID-19 cases per day or less countywide. 

It’s not clear what “feedback” the district received from families, but it would seem school system officials disregarded the many parents who are fed up with an education model that has kids virtually learning four days a week and left to their own devices for hours in “asynchronous” study time.

Jenkins concedes virtual learning has had an “outsized impact” on students, in particular students with disabilities, English learners, students transitioning into middle school, and younger pupils. 

“We are continuing to fine tune our virtual learning approach, and MMSD’s planning team is committed in their work to listen, learn and improve the learning experience for these and all students,” the superintendent pledged. 

If the planning team really listened, they’d hear how terrible a lost year of education has been for the community, parents, families and, above all, the children who are supposed to be MMSD’s No. 1 priority.

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