Wisconsin’s Education Agency Issues Guidance for Reopening Schools

Wisconsin’s education agency issued guidance for reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday. The Department of Public Instruction recommends smaller class sizes, alternating school-day schedules, and providing mental health support for students and staff.

In an 87-page document called “Education Forward: Safely and Successfully Reopening Wisconsin Schools,” the department outlines possible school schedules, learning environment considerations, and instructional models for flexibility.

“While I expect schools to reopen this fall, they will undoubtedly look different,” State Superintendent Carolyn Standford Taylor wrote in the document’s forward. “There will need to be social distancing, new cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and changes to how educators deliver instruction. There will be students who are not able to return to school due to health concerns and students and staff who may be quarantined due to exposure. This means every school district will need to plan for both school operations on campus and remote learning.”

DPI reminds schools to plan for change throughout the next school year and to be prepared to shift between in-person, physically distanced, and online learning. It also points out that COVID-19 disproportionately impacts Black, Native, and Hispanic/Latinx communities so schools should consider how they are addressing inequities for students of color and their families.

The department’s guidance is not a mandate but are recommendations for the 421 school districts, 26 independent charter schools, and 792 private schools in the state. The recommendations are divided into three sections based on when to take action:

  • Review: Review the recommended 2019-2020 school year closing actions
  • Prepare: Do before the 2020-2021 school year starts
  • Implement: Implement and review during the 2020-2021 school year.  

Some examples of infection control/mitigation recommendations include:

  • Creating small classroom groups
  • Staggering arrival and dismissal times
  • Rearranging student desks to maximize space between students
  • Bringing specialist teachers (music, art, physical education) to individual classrooms
  • Face masks/coverings are recommended for adults and students over age 2

Some examples of in-person class schedules:

  • Students in schools four days a week with Friday used to deep-clean
  • One group of students attend classes in-person one week and another group the following week
  • One group of students in schools Monday and Tuesday, cleaning on Wednesday and a different group of students on Thursday and Friday
  • Bringing elementary students back first and spreading them out across elementary and middle school buildings while secondary students continue with virtual learning.

Students will be provided with virtual learning materials to support them on days they are physically not in school.

DPI says they will continue to update the guide and provide additional resources as they become available.

About the Author

Yvonne Marquez is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].