More than 75 percent of elementary school students and 80 percent of middle school students in Deerfield plan to return to in-person learning this quarter, administrators say.

Deerfield students are set to return to school buildings starting Jan. 26, with older students transitioning to in-person learning by mid-February.

Students in grades 4K-2 are scheduled to return to Deerfield Elementary School on Tuesday, Jan. 26. Grades 3-6 are set to return Feb. 2, with grades 7-8 coming back on Feb. 9 and grades 9-12 returning on Feb. 16.

Superintendent Michelle Jensen said at a Jan. 11 Committee of the Whole meeting that the district is “on pace” to keep that timeline.

“We’re on our way,” Jensen said.

The district sent out a survey to families of 4K-eighth-graders on Dec. 29, asking them to choose whether their students would learn in-person or virtually.

Jensen said the results were unexpected, with many more families choosing in-person learning than the district anticipated.

Deerfield Elementary School is set to have 78 percent of its students return for in-person learning in grades 4K-six, Jensen said.

And Deerfield Middle School will see 83 percent of its students start the quarter in-person.

Data shared with the Deerfield School Board Monday night showed that DES’s kindergarten classes have the highest number of in-person learners, at 95 percent. Kindergarten has 55 total students.

Jensen said survey results were initially surprising, but other school districts in Dane County are seeing similarly high numbers of students coming back.

There is a survey out to Deerfield High School students and families now, to gauge in-person numbers. It’s due by Jan. 18.

The decision to bring Deerfield students back in person comes after Public Health Madison & Dane County issued new guidance mid-December, saying it believed it was safe for students to return to in-person learning at all grades, with safety measures in place.

Deerfield students will return to school for four full days a week, with asynchronous learning from home on Wednesdays. Each school building is expected to return to its normal full-day schedule.

In addition to asynchronous lessons for students, Jensen said, Wednesdays will also be used for additional cleaning in the buildings, staff connecting with virtual-only students and professional development.

Deerfield expects to use a “concurrent teaching” model, administrators say, where a teacher would instruct both in-person and virtual students at the same time. Virtual students would log onto Google Meet to watch lessons being broadcast from classrooms in real time.

Deerfield will offer a virtual learning option for the rest of the school year. Once in-person learning starts, Jensen said, families can’t opt to join in-person learning again until the start of the fourth quarter, for logistical reasons. But, students learning in-person can go virtual at any time.

Jensen reaffirmed Monday night that school districts are largely not seeing transmission of Covid-19 in school buildings, but Deerfield students will be wearing masks, sanitizing often, and keeping their distance.

Jensen said administrators are also looking at ways to make virtual learning “as compatible as possible” with in-person learning, “doing as many things as we can to make this a seamless experience” for virtual students.

“It’s very complex, it’s got a lot of pieces to it,” Jensen said.

One recent step, Jensen said, is purchasing audio technology for classrooms, to make sure that students learning virtually can hear well as teachers give lessons.

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