Saturday, December 26, 2020 - 1:49 pm

Some of our families have reached out with questions to help them in deciding what instructional model to select. Below are the questions that have been most common.


1. What is the difference between the Universal and Fully Virtual instructional models?

  • Teacher: In the Universal and Fully Virtual models, a District teacher will be teaching PK-8th-grade students. At the high school level, 95 percent of students will have an MCPASD teacher. In the few instances where they are not MCPASD teachers, they are experienced online teachers working for other Wisconsin school districts -- many of whom we have been working with for years. 
  • Curriculum: In the Universal and Fully Virtual models MCPASD curriculum is taught for students in PK-6th grade. For students in grades 7-12, curriculum designed in consultation with the Florida Virtual Network through the Wisconsin eSchool Network is used.
  • Students: In the Universal Model, students are in a class with students in their grade from their home school. In the Fully Virtual Model, students are assigned to a "classroom" with MCPASD students in their grade along with 2-3 other District schools.
  • Live learning: In the Universal Model, students receive more synchronous instruction. In the Fully Virtual Model, students have more asynchronous (non-live learning) instruction. Students in each model have regular interaction with their teachers.
  • Families received a two-page document with more information on Dec. 22. Please refer to it. You can also find the information on our District website.

2. If my child switches instructional models, will they have a new teacher?

Yes, if your child switches instructional models they will in all likelihood switch teachers and classes. There are currently two classes for each elementary grade in the Fully Virtual model. The District will be moving teachers from one model to the other and adjusting class rosters and schedules once the model window closes on Dec. 28.

3. What will class sizes look like in each model?

The District needs to see how many students switch models. For example, if 60 more students move to the Fully Virtual model, MCPASD would likely need to move three teachers who are currently in the Universal Model to the Fully Virtual model. Conversely, if 60 more students move to the Universal Model, MCPASD would likely need to move three teachers who are currently in the Fully Virtual model back into the classroom.

4. Why do we not have more time to make this decision?

The District is trying to give families as much time as possible to find daycare or make other arrangements. Over the next five-plus weeks, the District also has to finalize cohorts, adjust class rosters, likely move teachers from one model to another and set up transportation. When it was decided to have 4K and elementary students return on Feb. 1, the District worked backwards to set up its timeline.

The District needs cohorts finalized, class rosters adjusted and teachers moved from one model to another to keep equitable class sizes to have schedules ready to go at the secondary level when second semester starts on Jan. 19.

5. Is it possible 4K-elementary students won’t return to school buildings on Feb. 1?

The School Board voted on Dec. 21 to bring 4K-4th grade students who are in the Universal instructional model to school buildings starting Feb. 1.

Dr. Ellen Wald, the chair of UW-Madison’s Pediatrics Department who presented to the School Board in November, will be on hand to offer feedback and answer questions at the meeting on Jan. 11. The School Board has continued to stress it will look to PHMDC. The School Board will also look to see how the health data looks after winter break.

6. When will middle and high school students in the Universal model return to school buildings?

The District has set a target date of Feb. 22 for middle school students in the Universal instructional model to return to school buildings and March 11 for high school students in the Universal model to return to school buildings.

The School Board also indicated at its special meeting on Dec. 21 that the District should proceed with its plan to bring back middle and high school students, but will vote on the target dates for secondary students to return after they have had walk-throughs of Glacier Creek, Kromrey, MHS and CSCS and reviewed mitigation strategies for that level. The School Board plans to review and vote at its meeting on Feb. 8.

7. Why did the School Board move to the 2-1-2 model from the half-day model?

The District foreshadowed with the School Board that a half-day model would only be feasible at the elementary level and once secondary students returned to school buildings MCPASD would need to transition to a 2-1-2 model. With the current plan set to have secondary students set to return just a few weeks after elementary students, the goal was to use a single blended model so that elementary students and families would not have to transition to a new model.

Universal Model

1. When will we find out what cohort our child is in?

Families who keep their children in the Universal instructional model or switch to that model will find out which cohort they are in on Jan. 8. Children in the same household will be in the same cohort.

2. Why are you not taking requests about which cohort a child can be in?

It is important that cohorts be balanced. Physical distancing is crucial and that becomes more challenging if 15-18 students are in one cohort classroom and 6-9 are in the other. We certainly realize this will pose challenges for some families with regards to daycare, which is why we are announcing cohorts as quickly as possible so they have additional time to make arrangements.

3. How will the eating in schools work?

Elementary students will eat in their classrooms, not in the cafeteria. The majority of districts in Dane County that have had elementary students in schools in the fall have been serving student meals in classrooms. They have reported to MCPASD officials the program is going well.

The District is still finalizing how eating will work at the secondary level.

4. How many students will be in each classroom?

The District will need to see how many students are in the Universal model to know for sure, but we expect each cohort-classroom to have between 6 and 12 students at the elementary level and 9-15 students at the secondary level. Our classrooms vary in size but they have at least 600 square feet, which allows for appropriate physical distancing.

5. Will students and staff wear masks?

Yes, we expect all of our students and staff to wear masks, unless they are physically unable to do so.

6. If a student shows symptoms at school, what happens?

Sick students will be taken to a special room. Their families will be contacted to come and take the child home as quickly as possible. A separate room will be available for students who are being monitored by a nurse or nurse’s assistant but don’t have COVID symptoms.

7. What happens if a child has to quarantine or an entire class or school?

If an individual student or two need to quarantine or isolate but the class continues to meet in-person, we will work with the families to make sure their child receives the instruction they need while they are out.

If an entire classroom, including the teacher, needs to quarantine or isolate, that classroom would return to virtual learning until they can return to the school building. The same would hold true if a school needed to quarantine or isolate.

A couple of parochial schools in Dane County have had to switch classrooms to virtual learning, but the District isn’t aware of any Dane County public schools that have had to close a classroom or school while offering in-person instruction.

8. Will students be able to access in-classroon learning virtually?

Remote access opportunities will be added over time at all levels. We want to allow teachers the ability to focus on students in school and teaching of protocols and procedures when children first return to school buildings.

We do not anticipate students at home will be Zooming into their classrooms for the entire school day but at times during the day appropriate to the level. For example, at the elementary level during morning meetings and for mini-lesson instruction in math and literacy, while at the secondary level during WIN (Whatever I Need) and ASR (all-school resource). Individual teachers will determine additional remote access opportunities for students that connect to their respective courses. We anticipate these remote access opportunities will begin by the second or third week of implementation at each level.


1. Will transportation be offered and when can we sign up for it?

Families who keep their child in the Universal model or switch to that model will receive a link to a transportation form on Dec. 29. Families can let us know if they plan to have their child ride the bus at that time. We will be notifying families about pick-up and drop-off locations and times in mid-January.

2. Is there flexibility about where my child is picked up or dropped off?

Yes, families will be able to have their child picked up at one location and dropped off at another, if needed. However, the District will only allow one pick-up location and one-drop off location. So, for example, a child can be picked up at home and dropped off at child care. However, a child must be dropped off at child care all 4 days each week, not two days at child care and two days at home.

3. What safety protocols will be instituted on District buses?

We are asking families to do a daily health check of their child before having them get on the bus. If a child isn’t feeling well, they should not come to school. It is important that we all do our part and keeping sick children at home is important.

Students are expected to wear masks while on buses. Only students from the same household can sit together. When we develop our bus routes, we will limit the number of students on a bus to allow for appropriate physical distancing. Hand sanitizer will also be available.

Buses will be cleaned, with high traffic areas wiped down, after students are dropped at school and after they are dropped off when their session ends.


1. Why are you bringing back PK-4th grade students on Feb. 1?

Public Health Madison Dane County’s recent guidance and recommendations removes the metrics that school districts were encouraged to use in determining whether to bring back students and instead requires abiding by these requirements:

  • Develop and implement a written hygiene policy and procedure.
  • Develop and implement a written cleaning policy and procedure.
  • Develop and implement a written protective measure policy and procedure.
  • Implement PHMDC’s action plan for COVID-19 case(s) at the school.
  • Document staff receipt, acknowledgement, or training on the polices of this Order.
  • Post PHMDC’s workplace requirements for employers and workers guidance document in a prominent location were all employees may access and view.

In addition, PHMDC has issued five recommendations that are not part of the Order but can used to inform decision-making by school districts:

  • Reopen schools using a phased approach, starting with elementary-aged students. A virtual option for all students and staff considered at high risk is strongly encouraged.
  • Implement risk mitigation strategies in schools.
  • Track school-based COVID-19 cases/outbreaks and have a plan for contact tracing.
  • Develop a plan to move to virtual instruction.
  • If widespread testing becomes available, implement a school-based testing strategy.

3. Why are you making changes to virtual learning for 4K and elementary students in the Universal model?

A majority of families of elementary and 4K students indicated in the survey earlier this fall that they wanted more live instruction, interaction with teachers and small group work. We have been working on implementing those requests and will be doing so no later than Jan. 4.

Also, should at some point a classroom or school need to close because of COVID, those students would go back to virtual learning while in quarantine with the enhanced program.

A majority of middle and high school families indicated support for the current virtual model, although we continue to work on ways to create more interaction with students and staff.

4. Won’t this new enhanced virtual model disrupt my child’s routine?

It is possible that your child’s routine won't change. The plan is still for elementary students to have virtual learning from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. That won’t change. What we are trying to do is make sure there is more instruction and interaction between students and teachers during that time.

5. Will students who lack internet access at home still be able to come to schools for virtual learning? What about students who have IEPs?

We will continue to make sure that lack of internet access isn’t a barrier for our students and will offer facilities for them to use to access the internet, at least while all of our students haven’t returned to school buildings. The same is true for our students who have individualized education plans or 504sw who are currently coming into schools to receive support.

6. What happens if a family does not fill out the form?

If a family doesn’t complete a form, their child will remain in the instructional model they are currently in or the one their family requested they be in when we asked secondary families to complete an instructional model form in November or when we asked elementary families to complete an instructional model form earlier this month.

7. What does 2-1-2 mean?

It means that about half of all students in the Universal instructional model will receive in-person instruction in our schools on Monday and Tuesday, while the other half of students in that model will receive in-person instruction on Thursday and Friday.

All of our students in the Universal model will access asynchronous instruction virtually using Seesaw or BUZZ on Wednesday, just as they have been doing this school year.

8. What does asynchronous and synchronous learning mean?

Synchronous learning refers to live instruction with a District teacher. Asynchronous learning refers to instruction that isn’t live but can be accessed when it is convenient for the student and their family.

9. Can you tell me a little more about Fully Virtual instruction?

For students in the Fully Virtual model, instruction is predominantly asynchronous (independent) and does not follow the school daily schedule. Students do not attend a Zoom class in this model. Students access the curriculum through Seesaw or BUZZ depending on their grade.

Middle and high school students remain connected to their assigned advisory peers and adviser.

Students in elementary school and grades 5-6 at the middle school follow MCPASD curriculum. Students in grades 7-12 follow course curriculum that is aligned with the Common Core standards. The curriculum is designed by nationally recognized online content providers through the Wisconsin eSchool Network.

Any requested courses where an MCPASD teacher is unavailable will be taught by a Wisconsin teacher through one of our partner districts in the Wisconsin eSchool Network.

10. What does a Fully Virtual student’s day look like?

Students access instructional content asynchronously (independently) then complete assignments/assessments designed to help them both build and demonstrate their understanding of the content. There are typically no daily or required Zoom sessions.

Students connect with their teachers and access support through optional Zoom support sessions and office hours and have assignment due dates in the course that provide a pacing guide for the work that needs to be completed. Teachers of fully virtual courses provide personalized feedback, digitally and/or live via Zoom, to support student growth on a regular basis and students are always welcome to reach out via email with questions.

All courses are available for students to access online at any time so students have the flexibility to engage in their learning at times that best meet their needs. Fully Virtual students must be in the learning platform at least five hours a week to meet attendance requirements. However, students are usually working 4-5 hours a day.

11. Would students who switch to the Fully Virtual model be able to continue taking advanced courses, such as mathematics? How about world language, band and orchestra?

Yes, students can remain in advanced math, although they would switch to the Florida Virtual Curriculum and have a new teacher.

World language will likely depend on what language they are taking. It may also mean moving to the Florida Virtual Curriculum and a new teacher.

Fully Virtual students would be able to access band and orchestra at the middle level through small group virtual instruction.

12. What does cohort mean and how is it determined?

Cohorts is the term schools are using when they can’t bring in all students to buildings at once. Public Health Madison Dane County continues to require 6 feet of physical distancing, which makes it impossible for MCPASD to have all students in the Universal model in a building at the same time.

MCPASD has decided that it will split students into the Universal model into two cohorts: Cohort 1 and Cohort 2. The District will split cohorts fairly equally. Children from the same household will be in the same cohort.

13. I would like to learn more. Where can I find additional information?

  • Here is an embedded link to the Instructional Models chart and information that was emailed to families on Dec. 22 and explains the differences between Fully Virtual and Universal.
  • We have added a COVID Prevention & Responses document to the District website. It includes a number of embedded links to resources. 
  • We have posted a Safety Protocols Video to the District website that looks at dropping off students at school, what is being implemented in schools and classrooms, and what students will be doing to stay safe on buses.
  • Health Services coordinator Danielle Krbecek reviewed what we are doing at the School Board meeting on Dec. 7. The video is available on the District’s YouTube Channel. Her presentation lasts about 20 minutes and starts around the 51-minute mark. Assistant Superintendent of Operations Lori Ames follows with information about busing.

14. Who do I contact if I have additional questions?

Please email Director of Communications Perry Hibner at