Nearly two months after Marshall middle and high school students returned to in-person instruction, their schedule will shift from two days per week in person to being in the buildings Tuesday through Friday starting April 20.

Superintendent Dan Grady explained the decision the day after the March 17 school board meeting. He said the desire of the district was to have students return to as much face-to-face instruction as possible.

Since late February, seventh graders had the option of in-person instruction on Wednesdays and Fridays with eighth graders in the building Tuesdays and Thursdays. At the high school, students with the last name beginning with the letter A-L attend classes in-person Tuesdays and Wednesdays and those whose last name starts with M-Z can attend in person Thursday and Friday. On the days the students were not in the physical school buildings, they participated in class virtually.

“We’ve been looking at the current data for student and staff health,” Grady said, referring to the COVID-19 dashboard used by the district to track the number of positive cases, number of people who had been in close contact with an individual who tested positive for coronavirus, and the number of people who have exhibited symptoms of COVID-19.

As of the March 17 meeting, there were currently no active cases among students and staff. There were no staff with coronavirus symptoms or in quarantine due to close contact. The dashboard indicated there were 13 students who were out with symptoms and five who had close contacts. Grady reported none of the close contacts was with someone at school.

Furthermore, the Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) orders have impacted when the schools can offer more in-person instruction as has the availability for school employees to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

The start date of April 20 allows for a two-week buffer following Spring Break, Grady said, noting there is the potential for increased COVID-19 cases if families choose to travel during break.

Mondays will continue to be a remote instruction day across the district. The superintendent said the decision to keep Mondays as remote instruction is due to the demanding nature of teaching concurrently for in-person and remote learners.

The middle and high school students will continue to be released at 2:30 p.m.

Grady said all families will have to determine whether they want their student to attend in-person or remotely for the remainder of the year by April 20. Initially, the switch between instruction methods was at the conclusion of the third quarter, but the district opted to push back the date to align with the four-day-per-week in-person instruction available starting April 20.

Staffing recommendations for 2021-2022

Grady and other members of the district administration will be having some difficult conversations with staff members after deciding to reduce six full-time positions for the upcoming academic year.

The superintendent said the administrative team met four times to discuss identifying the district’s goals and areas to grow student achievement.

“How do we allocate resources or reallocate resources to those growth areas,” Grady said.

Additionally, the administration looked at the student population and the optimal number of students per classroom or course.

The superintendent emphasized that none of the staff members whose contracts will not be renewed have been very valuable to the district, but budget reductions and enrollment numbers have resulted in the need to reduce the positions.

Grady said while the six staff members will not have their contracts renewed, the district would have these individuals at the top of the list if there is an movement within the schools where a position the reduced staff members were qualified to fill would be open.

“Second, if there isn’t that job to invite them back, we’re going to do everything to help them land on their feet,” he said. “They have given service to our kids and community and we going to do everything we can to help them find a job.”

The superintendent reminded the board it had discussed ways to grow the Marshall schools and develop and support instruction. Grady said through the pandemic, the need for student interventions and coaching has been a high need and it’s anticipated this will continue into the next academic year.

Based on this, the administration is also recommending the district add three positions for 2021-2022.

“They aren’t really an addition because we’re recommending some transfers between three schools,” the superintendent said. The transfers will be for staff who hold specific certifications and student needs.

Other board news:

• District facilities are now open for the public, but limited to Marshall-based groups. Grady said any group using the indoor or outdoor facilities would have to follow the most recent PHMDC order.

• Approved a new three-year lease for Chromebooks and purchasing 150 iPads. The iPads will replace devices that are getting old and outdated. The district hopes to use the third round of elementary and secondary school emergency relief (ESSER) grant, which is part of the coronavirus aid, relief and economic security (CARES) funds.

• Approved a request for a high school student to participate in Operation Fresh Start.

• Approved a 2021-2022 contract with CESA 5 for physical therapy services.

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