Due to a large number of staff being impacted by the coronavirus, the Marshall School District decided to shift back to all virtual instruction for its youngest students effective Wednesday, Nov. 11. It is expected to continue virtual learning until at least Dec. 1.
A letter sent to families from Superintendent Dan Grady indicated the district had received guidance from Public Health Madison Dane County that based on the number of COVID-19 cases within the village and the number of staff members identified as close contacts “the safest path forward is to temporarily close the Marshall Early Learning Center to prevent further spread.” The ELC opened for in-person instruction on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
According to the letter, the virus had affected 20 ELC staff members since Nov. 9, including three identified as symptomatic/probable cases and 17 identified as close contacts. District protocols outline anyone with close contact or symptomatic is asked to not attend school in-person for at least two weeks. According to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard since the official July 1 start of the school year, a total of 77 staff either had a confirmed case (10), were symptomatic/had a probable case (14), or were in close contact with someone who had coronavirus (53) as of Nov. 16. Forty-eight of those cases have been resolved.
Additionally, the dashboard indicates there have been 21 total students impacted by the virus with three confirmed cases and 18 close contacts; as of Nov. 16; 12 of the total cases had been resolved.
ELC Principal Rich Peters said as of Wednesday, Nov. 11, 185 children in early childhood through second grade were attending in person with 77 students in those grades attending remotely.
“We had a smooth start to in-person learning. We were able to make adjustments daily to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Students did a great job wearing masks, washing hands, and they all did their best at socially distancing to the best of their ability,” Peters said. “When we did have to begin remote teaching the next day we didn’t miss a beat as we were well prepared due to our decision to start the school remotely.”
The decision not only impacts the ELC, approximately six English language learners in grades 3-6 and 18 students in grades 3-12 with individual education plans had been attending in person. These students will also be shifting to all remote instruction.
According to Director of Special Education Karla Sikora, the special education teachers were excited to meet with students for in-person instruction. While in the school buildings, staff and students had all been wearing masks. She said due to some students’ abilities, it was not in the best interest of the staff member to be physically distanced from the student.
“Staff were able to coordinate their day to ensure that all of the needs of their students were met whether they were teaching or supporting their students virtually or in person,” Sikora said.
“From the Special Education perspective, the need to bring in some of our most vulnerable students was evident right away. Teachers modeled good hygiene and mask wearing and our students followed that behavior,” she continued. “In most cases, our staff practiced social distancing whenever possible. The Marshall Team is very resilient and adapted very well to teaching both in person and through remote learning.”
Sikora said pivoting to all-remote learning was a difficult decision for the administrative team, but it allows for the district to maintain keeping its students and staff healthy and safe.
“We believe strongly in our entire staff that we have the best and that they do whatever it takes to meet the needs of all of our students whether it is through remote teaching our face to face on site,” Peters said. “We are also very appreciative of our Marshall families as they have been fantastic following our school guidelines and procedures along with the positive support they give our entire school community.”