It is KUSD’s day five of closure during the pandemic that has seized our country. Amidst the many articles on this topic, I read, “Don’t miss the beautiful colors of the rainbow when you are looking for the pot of gold.” This resonated with me based on the current challenges our country is facing. This pandemic is causing us to pause, reflect on who we are and focus on supporting one another in a time of crisis.
As of March 17, 2020, Gov. Evers shared that “schools will be closed for the duration of the public health emergency.” This currently does not have an end date, but extends beyond the initial return to school date of Monday, April 6. As such, our schools will remain closed until further notice. We understand the concern this may cause, but we do not have an answer from the state as to when this will end at this current time.
To help ease the minds of our employees, we will continue to pay the following staff as usual until further notice:
- Regular full-time equivalent employees (not part-time, timesheet) in the following groups: administrative support professionals; administrative, supervisory and technical; community and student support; educational support professionals; facilities; food services; interpreters; and teachers.
- The following Non-FTE positions with consistent work hours (aka part-time, timesheet assignments) will also be paid as usual during this time (no hours will be paid for the week of spring break for part-time, timesheet employees): cafeteria worker, clerical, food service technician II and III, library aide, long-term substitute special education ESP, long-term substitute teacher, noon hour monitor, off-duty police officers, student help I, II and III, title I classroom ESP
- All other part-time, timesheet employees, other than those outlined above, will not be paid during this time. Individuals not being paid during this time may file for unemployment at https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uiben/.
During the closure, some supervisors may ask essential staff to work to meet the needs of the district. Positions that may be asked to come in include (this list may change based on needs): administrative support professionals, building principals, central office facilities staff (warehouse, custodians, etc.), central office food services for cold lunch program, central office finance staff, central office information services staff, communications staff, educational accountability staff, HR staff, and leadership council. Individuals in non-exempt positions deemed essential and asked to work by their supervisor will receive flextime to be used by Dec. 31, 2020.
All previously scheduled absences (e.g. sick, vacation, unpaid leave) during the closure will not be counted. The Office of HR will reverse any pending absences in Frontline. No action is required on your part.
Our families need your help, and I know you want nothing less than to support them. We know many questions still remain, such as what this means for high school seniors, how students will obtain credits, how grades will be impacted, and more. Please know that I am working to acquire answers and am expecting guidance from the state and/or Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) soon.
I especially understand the fears and trepidation among our high school seniors. They are fearful they may not be able to walk the stage as has been done for hundreds of years in celebration of a monumental achievement. I assure you, our goal is to provide as much support and normalcy for this group, as well as all others, despite the challenges we are facing. Unfortunately, we do not have answers right now, but I do anticipate information/direction to be forthcoming from the state and/or DPI soon.
Here is what we know as of today:
- Gov. Evers ordered schools to be closed “indefinitely” during this health crisis.
- There is currently no end date for this closure.
- DPI will grant a waiver for the time schools are closed due to the pandemic.
- KUSD submitted the Wisconsin Instructional Hour requirement waiver due to the closure caused by Coronavirus/COVID-19. The board will vote to support this waiver application at its regular meeting on April 27, 2020.
- DPI will grant a waiver for state assessments due to the pandemic.
- KUSD will submit a waiver for this area as well.
- DPI will grant a waiver for the civics exam due to the pandemic.
- KUSD will submit a waiver for this area as well.
- We anticipate information to be forthcoming from the state and/or DPI regarding how grades and graduation will be affected.
- Our grab and go lunches are going well and are appreciated by many – we are distributing over 1,100 meals daily.
- Our COVID-19 webpages in English and Spanish are being updated regularly.
Here is what I can share regarding learning in KUSD. Due to state and federal requirements, and the desire to provide an equitable education to all students, we face many hurdles, including:
- Being the third-largest district in the state, with nearly 21,000 students, many do not have the technology or access necessary for online learning.
- Providing special education services to exceptional students while facing social distancing requirements and health concerns.
- Families who are working multiple jobs and the capacity to also teach/supervise/support their children during this crisis may be limited.
We are not alone. Our peer urban districts – Green Bay Public Schools, Madison Metropolitan School District, Milwaukee Public Schools and Racine Unified – are in the same boat. I share this as a reality that many districts are facing during this unchartered time. Most are not prepared for virtual learning that includes graded work.
So what can we do? We can take steps to share learning resources with our students. In fact, we already shared learning activities in English and Spanish with families via our Q&A and on social media. On Monday, March 23, we also will begin distributing a weekly learning activity sheet with our grab and go lunches.
Teachers may also begin sharing non-graded learning activities via email, apps, Google classroom, or whatever platform your students may be familiar with. At this time, these should not be graded or required due to the equity issues that exist, but they will help bridge the gap between now and our return to normalcy, whenever that may come. You may also allow students to turn in work that was required prior to Friday, March 13. Please be conscious to not overload students. We want to ensure they continue learning, but we do not want to cause additional stress or anxiety.
AP instruction has been a hot topic and we encourage you to review the latest update from AP regarding online tests that are being developed for students. Of important note from AP, “To be fair to all students, some of whom have lost more instructional time than others, the exam will only include topics and skills most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March.”
Specific expectations for instructional staff are under development and will be shared in the near future. Please monitor your email regularly for updates.
Grade-level staff are encouraged to collaborate, but we ask that you work remotely via online resources to the best of your ability for the safety of all. One option is the newly activated Google Meet for all KUSD staff (this is not open to students). This simple walkthrough explains how to create and/or join a meeting. Those needing assistance should reach out to their building ITT/ITTC. Please be mindful of background noise, lighting and visibility. This can also be used for audio only by simply turning off the camera. Please know that bandwidth congestion may occur based on household usage.
Buildings will remain closed for deep cleaning and may not be accessed for the safety of all. A decision regarding the reopening of buildings will be forthcoming. In fact, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank our amazing facilities and food services teams who have been hard at work deep cleaning our buildings since our closure, and ensuring our community has one less thing to worry about as they prepare meals to go. The meals alone have given peace of mind during very troubling times.
We will be sending a similar email to families to provide them with an update, too. We will share that teachers may begin sending non-graded learning activities and will let them know that weekly learning activities will now be included in our grab and go lunches.
If you have questions, please connect with your building leader. I am grateful for the outpouring of support and understanding as we navigate this pandemic one day at a time.
Be safe and well,
Dr. Sue Savaglio-Jarvis