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McFarland families hoping to send their children back to in-person school will likely have to wait at least another three months.

On Oct. 19, the McFarland School Board voted in favor of an action that prohibits grades 3-12 from returning to in-person school until at least Jan. 26.

Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) recommends that grades 3-12 not return to physical schools until the county has an average of less than 39 new cases of COVID-19 per day. The district is hopeful that the county will achieve this metric by Jan. 26.

Due to COVID-19, the district is operating under a five step reopening plan. Grades 3-12 are currently in step two, which entails 100% virtual learning. The Oct. 19 decision bars grades 3-12 from moving forward to step three, a hybrid program, until the beginning of the third quarter.

Grades 4k-2 were permitted to enter step three in September, but Melissa Pfohl, the district’s director of teaching and learning, said no grades can move past this step until local health officials revoke social distancing requirements.

Step four of the plan would allow all students to return to in-person school, but separated into cohorts to avoid possible cross-contamination related to COVID-19. Step five would be traditional in-person schooling with no restrictions or separation of students.

Pfohl also said that it is possible for 4k-2 to revert from step three back to step two if three or more people at a single grade level test positive for COVID-19 within five days of each other. This would require everyone in that grade level to go back to step two for 14 days.

However, if five or more people within the school test positive within five days of one another, the entire school would revert back to step two for at least two weeks.

Following their Oct. 19 meeting, the school board held its 59th annual budget hearing on Monday, Oct. 26.

McFarland School District’s director of business services Jeff Mahoney reported to the board a net general fund for 2020-21 of $30,000,000.

Of that figure, $13.5 million will come from taxes, and approximately $16.5 million from state aid, state categorical aid, and open enrollment tuition fees, Mahoney said.

The McFarland School District was awarded $12,959,583 in state aid this year, a number up 4.73% from the previous year.

Mahoney also reported that this year’s general fund is heavily saturated with expenditures related to COVID-19.

He estimated approximately $200,000 for substitute teaching staff due to sick teachers, an extra $100,000 in medical services, another $100,000 in PPE expenses, and hundreds of thousands more in expenses related to the dynamic impacts of COVID-19.

Despite the unexpected pandemic related expenses this year, Mahoney assured the board that the district is in a position to come out on top.

“The good news for our school district is the fact that we have built good reserves that can help offset these expenses and should allow us to meet any ramifications that come forward from the state of Wisconsin, whether it’s this fiscal year or as we already start planning for 2021-22,” Mahoney said.

The McFarland School Board will meet again on Monday, Nov. 2. The meeting can be accessed via livestream on YouTube.

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