About 23% of Milton School District families chose virtual learning over in-person learning (or a hybrid option) in an online survey that was due July 24.

Superintendent Rich Dahman reported the outcome during Monday’s school board meeting.

The school district has not yet heard back from all families said school district Communications and Community Outreach Coordinator Kari Klebba. As more families indicate their preference, she said percentages are likely to change.

Early Monday, the responses were:

• 4K-6 : 483 (79%) selected “in-person” instruction, 392 (21%) selected virtual.

• 7-12: 1081 (79%) selected “in person,” also known as blended instruction, 279 (21%) selected virtual.

According to Dahman, families will have opportunities to change their minds Aug. 10-14 and again the first week of school.

The options presented to families in the “Milton Forward: Instructional and Building Reopening Plan for 2020-21” assume the Rock County is still in Phase 2 of its reopening plan. If major coronavirus outbreaks occur, the county plan says the county would stay within its current phase and consider returning to a previous phase.

In-person instructional models in Milton Forward are different for grades 4K-6 than they are for grades 7-12.

Grades 4K-6 will return to school five days a week. Students, in smaller groups (“cohorts”), will be assigned one primary homeroom teacher. Students will remain in their homeroom as much as possible.

Grades 7-12 will start the year in blended hybrid model. Students will be assigned to cohorts based on last name. Those whose last names are A-K will be in Cohort A and students whose last names are L-Z will be in Cohort B. A and B will alternate days with in-person lessons one day and virtual lessons the other.

Dahman addressed questions during two virtual Q&A sessions July 21 and said a back-to-school Q&A section will be added to the school district website. Videos of the community sessions can be found at www.milton.k12.wi.us.

He acknowledged situations can change from a societal or family viewpoint.

It’s easier for the district if students on site switch to virtual learning, he said because that doesn’t increase the size of the cohorts.

“Starting virtual then coming to school is trickier logistically,” he said, noting switching in that case would be allowed if space is available.

If students have been learning onsite but are quarantined or ill, he said they would be able to switch to virtual learning.

Ryan Ruggles, director of curriculum and instruction, at Monday’s school board meeting said the goal with curriculum and instruction is to be flexible and fluid, “able to move in a moment in any of our (county reopening) phases.”

He said the hybrid option was created based on 10% of students choosing Virtual Learning 2.0, the virtual only model.

As a parent, Ruggles said he understood there’s a tendency to need to know everything right now, but the pandemic situation itself is fluid.

He said more information will be presented at the Aug. 10 school board meeting.

Milton Forward includes early release time (about an hour) once a week. Ruggles said Mondays are being considered for early release because 4K does not have school on Mondays.

Five professional development days may be days students are asked to work on their own virtually, he said.

Dahman said, “Now that we have the number of students that are planning to come into the buildings, our next step will be to dig into how many cohorts we’ll need to be able to physically distance students in each classroom at those younger levels.”

Other steps the district is taking to decrease the risk of spreading the virus and the chances that someone will need to be quarantined if someone else tests positive include physical distancing (desks will be more than 6 feet apart), face coverings, regular cleaning and disinfecting and frequent use of hand sanitizer.

“We have a requirement that students and staff will have some type of face covering with them at all times when they’re inside our buildings,” Dahman said. “And will be using those in common areas and any time they’re moving around the schools and in the classroom if there’s not that physical distancing.”

Face masks aren’t the only option, he clarified face shields, bandanas (that cover nose and mouth) and gaiters are other options.

When students are more than 6 feet apart, they will be allowed to take their masks off for a “mask recess.” With social distancing and no one moving around the classroom, he said masks are “recommended” but not required.

Students and staff will be required to screen for COVID-19 at home, Dahman said. Screening includes not having a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher and answering a series of questions about symptoms or whether they have been in contact with someone who has symptoms or who tested positive.

“An important part of mitigating the risk (of spreading the virus) is that not having people who don’t feel well coming into our schools,” he said. “The expectation is students stay home if they have symptoms.”

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