Milton School District Superintendent Rich Dahman at Monday’s school board meeting said he’s pleased with the start of the new school year. The comment is especially meaningful during the COVID-19 pandemic, when other school districts have paused in-person learning.
“The start to the school year has been going very well in all of our schools,” said Dahman, who is in his second year as Milton superintendent. “I’m really happy to see how hard our students and staff are working on the instructional side of things and also on our safety protocols. People are taking our safety protocols seriously, doing a wonderful job of face covering, social distancing, screening before they come into work and school.”
Students and staff have been asked to stay home if they have a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or greater, a new and persistent cough, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, vomiting/diarrhea, new loss of taste or smell, or close contact to a confirmed or presumed positive COVID-19 case. They also have been asked to stay home if they have two or more of the following symptoms: headache, sore throat, body/muscle aches, congestion/runny nose and chills.
Other guidance for parents and staff can be found in Milton Forward, available online at Milton.k12.wi.us.
With the Janesville School District suspending in-person instruction at Craig High School and Roosevelt Elementary School Tuesday through at least Friday, Sept. 25, “to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19,” Dahman commented on the decision making process of closing schools.
“There are a lot of pieces that go into it,” he said. “There isn’t one certain number that we look at or one certain criteria. It’s really around how the countywide and districtwide metrics are looking for positive cases and spread.”
Classroom and building closures will be evaluated case by case, according to “Milton Forward COVID-19 Communications.”
The document states the school district will follow the guidance of the county public health department, which has an in-person/virtual decision guide for schools.
The decision guide asks:
- Do the countywide metrics justify stopping in-person instruction/closing schools? (Rock County has a data dashboard for schools on its website.)
- Have there been positive COVID-19 cases in your district among staff or students? Have the positive cases and contacts been isolated/quarantined? Are new cases linked back to exposure within the school among students or staff?
- Is the school absentee rate due to COVID-like illness above 10%?
Additional factors to consider:
• Local and county COVID-19 data
• School staffing levels
• School building limitations
• Vulnerable populations
• Are there additional steps that can be taken to increase physical distancing?
• Is there adequate PPE available?
• Is there adequate nursing/health staff?
While Rock County is in Phase 2 of its reopening guidelines, the Milton School District offers in-person learning for 4K-6 and a hybrid option for 7-12 or virtual learning.
“Continuing to follow safety protocols decreases the risk that we’ll have people test positive,” he said “but it doesn’t eliminate the risk.”
If Rock County moves back to Safer at Home or Phase 1, the Milton School District would move to Virtual Learning 2.0.
“There is a possibility that we may need to at some point go to a fully virtual model and we’re continuing to fine tune our plans in case that has to happen,” Dahman said.
When asked Monday which criteria were met at Craig and Roosevelt, Janesville School District spokesman Patrick Gasper replied: “For us, it was basically just looking at the numbers after being notified over the weekend. … We were told, and people started having to do contact tracing, and I think that that just played into once you get to a point where you have more students and more people being told to isolate or quarantine at home. It just makes more sense to pivot to an online instruction to keep more people safe.”
Benjamin Pierce contributed to this report.