A Message from Interim Head of School Mark Brooks
July 24, 2020
Hello MCDS community. I hope you are safe, well, and enjoying these beautiful days of summer. Here at MCDS, both our awesome Summer Discovery program and our thorough preparations for our students to commence school on August 24 are in full swing.
Today, I would like to take a few moments to go over the preparations our dedicated and skilled health & safety and academic re-entry committees have done in connection with the upcoming school year.
The number one goal of all of us here at MCDS is the safety of our community. I hope you will see that reflected in the details of this webpage.
Even though there are unknowns for this school year, I am confident that when school commences this August, MCDS will provide the excellent educational experience you chose for your children when you selected MCDS.
I also know that this school year is going to look different. Thanks to the work of our re‑entry task force committees, we are prepared to provide our program in three modalities: Face-to-Face, Hyflex, or fully remote, also known as MCDS@home. Each of these modalities are explained as clearly as possible through this webpage.
While it is impossible to guarantee what modality the school will be in on August 24, our current plan is for in-person instruction. If I were pressed to speculate today, I would say that we should all be prepared to flexibly flow through all of these modalities this school year.
Fortunately, MCDS is uniquely positioned to pivot successfully between these modalities to provide all of our students with an intellectually stimulating, personally enriching, and academically challenging educational program.
This year will depend on our community’s ability to be flexible, understanding, and clear-eyed about the limits of our knowledge. I am confident that I can count on all of us to model these essential life skills for our children. It is humbling for you, as parents, and frankly for me, as Head of School, to admit we do not know fully how the school year will evolve.
I respectfully submit to you that if someone does tell you they have guarantees and all of the answers, be very wary of their promises. Our ability to protect the physical as well as social-emotional health of our community will require us all to be flexible and pivot on short notice. In fact, I expect to consult new information and data over the next 4 to 5 weeks that may well lead to some of our re-entry plans changing. We are prioritizing the safety of your children and our faculty and staff, and we need your flexibility and understanding of our commitment to these priorities.
Keeping our community safe will also require your participation in the community pact by committing to be diligent and take the necessary steps to keep our entire community safe. We ask that if your child is sick or has been exposed to COVID-19, you will agree to keep them home.
We are committed to communicating with our community in a transparent way. Our communication begins with this website, but it does not end here. We welcome your questions, feedback, and suggestions. We look forward to working with you this year as we learn safely, and together.
Thank you, and see you soon, in Madison.
Mark A. Brooks
Interim Head of School
Major goals of our re-entry plan
Health and Safety
Supporting and protecting the health of our community
Ensuring the delivery of the mission of MCDS
The commencement of the 2020-2021 school year for all students will be on August 24 as originally planned. For the faculty and families who elect to return to school in person there will be a phased return to campus as set forth below. Faculty, staff and families’ students who elect to teach or have their children attend school remotely will do so.
The phases for returning faculty, staff and students will be as follows:
Grades Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1, 5, and 9 will have the option of in person or online instruction. All other grades will have online instruction only.
Grades 2, 3, 4, 6 and 10 will have the option of joining the grades that started in Phase 1 for in person or online instruction. All other grades will have online instruction only.
Grades 7, 8, 11, and 12 will have the option of joining all other grades for in person or online instruction.
All phases above depend on external conditions of the pandemic.
Amended 2020-21 Abridged Calendar
In order to accomplish our ambitious goals for delivering an excellent education to our students this year, MCDS will approximately double the number of professional development (in-service) days for our faculty. Details about this decision are within the Academics and Calendar Changes sections below.
The amended abridged calendar can be found at this link.
MCDS COVID-19 Prevention Policies
Madison Country Day School is fully committed to safeguarding the health and safety of all faculty, staff, students, and community members.
Details of our COVID-19 policies are available in this document.
Mental Health Plan
- Prioritize relationships and human connection in all lessons and interactions.
- Increase awareness and understanding about the exceptional socio-emotional challenges of the current climate.
- Provide varied entry points and degrees of support for the community to make socio-emotional learning part of the daily experience.
Faculty and staff will learn about trauma-informed teaching and strategies for preparing to welcome students back in the fall.
The MCDS professional community will be reading Marc Brackett’s book, Permission to Feel, as it will guide our use of RULER in the classroom.
All faculty and staff will take the Gatekeepers Training (suicide prevention) offered through DPI.
Work with the School Safety Intervention Team for crisis management.
Use age-appropriate book clubs for students that include books that hone in on pressing themes as determined by administration and faculty.
Use purchased Second Step curriculum for Pre-K through Grade 8.
Use student mental health screener.
Series of webinars by a mental health professional that address parent concerns.
Help the Parent Guild with facilitating social events so parents can use one another for support.
Make topical resources available for families emailed out monthly.
Resources for families on various topics on the school’s website.
In an effort to make purposeful and frequent well-being checks and mental health education, we have outlined monthly, weekly and daily protocols.
While the overarching ideas are similar in each mode (in-person, online and hyflex) the way lessons and groups are created, facilitated and disseminated will vary depending on which mode we are using to learn.
As the COVID situation changes frequently, we are poised to pivot in scope or sequence for what is best for our students and community at large.
Broadly speaking, the academic program at MCDS remains unchanged, though engaged in its typical processes of revision and evolution. The global pandemic is certainly impacting what we teach, but the primary difference is going to be the medium in which teaching and learning happen at MCDS in the 2020-21 school year. Necessarily, this will prompt some changes in how we teach and learn at MCDS.
Through careful study, the Academics committee has determined that there are three modes that the faculty at MCDS will prepare in order to be flexible in the face of an ever-changing environment. Below you will find more information about each mode.
In all of our operational modes, the focus is to maximize the time students can have in face-to-face interactions with teachers and their peers, while also providing a digital core to serve as a home base for learning.
Mode 1: In person
- Similarities to previous school years
- Rotating A-H schedule in middle and high schools
- Location of lower school
- Differences from previous school years
- Additional health measures
- Lower school: Primarily by grade
- Middle and high schools: Slightly larger cohorts, perhaps by division
- Rearrangement of classroom assignments to accommodate cohorting
- Dedicated entrances and areas ensure little to no mixing of grade levels
- Lower school: Remains in current wing of building
- Middle school: Moves entirely to new wing of building
- High school: Moves to middle part of building
- Dedicated entrances and areas ensure little to no mixing of grade levels
- Space to accommodate social distancing
- Classrooms have been measured
- Large classrooms and small class sizes generally provide ample space
- Large gatherings not permitted under current guidance; alternate plans required
Like the name sounds, in-person instruction will retain many of the rhythms of school years past, including the rotating A-H schedule in the middle and high schools. Though this is the traditional mode in which MCDS has operated, and this will be the mode we aspire to safely provide, in-person education will look different at MCDS next year. Besides health measures like masking, social distancing, hand washing, and temperature checks, to name a few, students will be grouped in cohorts so as to minimize exposure between different groups of students. In the lower school, students will largely be cohorted by grade, while in the middle and high school those groups will be slightly larger, perhaps by division.
Critically, classroom assignments will be rearranged to accommodate the cohorting. Lower school will remain in the wing of the building it currently occupies, middle school will move entirely into the newest part of our building, and high school will move to the portion of our campus bookended by the Hub and the current MS/HS entrance. With dedicated entrances, hallways and stairwells, we will be able to largely prevent mixing between grade levels.
This will also be covered in the facilities section below, but classrooms have been measured to ensure that no room is too crowded and that there is enough space to social distance. Fortunately, because of our small class sizes and large classrooms, this is mostly possible to do without substantial changes to our typical staffing assignments and class sizes in the middle and high school. In the lower school, specialists will be assigned to a grade and will rotate with them approximately every 12 days, which will help us to divide classes into smaller cohort groups.
Additional measures will mark a departure from the past as well. Large group gatherings, unless guidance changes, will still not be permitted. Thus, assemblies, large ensemble or class groupings, and other sizable gatherings of students and teachers will need to find a different expression or a way to happen online. Lunches will be taken in classrooms instead of in common areas as well.
The measures articulated above are with the values of safety and durability in mind. Safety for our community members and durability of remaining in-person for as much of this next school year as possible.
Mode 2: Hyflex
- Combines in-person and distance learning
- Lower school: Retains in-person instruction
- Middle and high schools: Weekly rotation in and out of building
- On-campus weeks for middle and high school
- Class schedule similar to in-person instruction
- At-home weeks for middle and high school
- 3 synchronous classes / week per subject
- Schedule accommodates ample 1:1 meeting opportunities with teachers
Should greater social distancing measures or other external events demand it, MCDS will shift to a mode we are calling Hyflex. Put in its simplest terms, the Hyflex mode will seek to retain in-person instruction for lower school students and will rotate the middle school and high school in and out of the building on a weekly basis. During weeks in the building, middle and high school students can expect a schedule of classes similar to in-person instruction. During weeks at home, students can expect three synchronous classes per week per subject with ample opportunities for 1:1 meetings with teachers built into the schedule.
The Hyflex mode allows for our youngest and least independent learners to remain on campus while capitalizing on the skills we are able to teach middle and high school students in stretches of an MCDS@home scenario. In all of our operational modes, the focus is to maximize the time students can have in face-to-face interactions with teachers and their peers, while also providing a digital core to serve as a home base for learning.
Mode 3: MCDS@Home 2.0
Should external conditions or state or local governments require it, MCDS will transition to a version of remote learning based on our experience with MCDS@home this past spring. Notably, the student schedules for MCDS@home 2.0 will contain more synchronous learning opportunities and will feature new instructional strategies honed by our faculty over the summer.
While we value our independence, when it comes to delivering the best academic program for our students during a global pandemic, we must remain connected to the wider community and not act unilaterally in decisions regarding our students’ and the larger public health.
To that end, in addition to being guided by our task forces and community data, MCDS will also continue to consult with local regulations as well as regional and national associations to gather data and make informed decisions.
Switching between operational modes will be decided using inputs from the CDC, the State of Wisconsin, Dane County (Forward Dane phases), and MCDS data (cases in the community). Should we be required to switch between modes, every effort will be made to minimize interruptions to the educational process and to provide sufficient advance notice to the community.
The music department at MCDS is excited for our 2020-2021 school year. Our format for the school year will include ensemble instruction (to begin virtually, in-person sessions TBD), individual and collaborative performance projects, service projects, composition units, interactive listening projects, regular guest clinicians, and private lessons.
Our HS classroom courses will operate as they have in the past with 9th Grade African Voices (African music, Caribbean, Hip Hop), 10th grade (History of Rock and Roll), and our popular 11th and 12th grade IB music courses that study a variety of diverse genres, time periods using interactive listening, journaling, music history and theory, and composition.
MCDS continues to value music as an active part of a student’s education.
Additional Days Off
In order to accomplish our ambitious goals for delivering an excellent education to our students this year, MCDS will approximately double the number of professional development (in-service) days for our faculty. Preparing for multiple modes of instruction requires time to do well, so MCDS will need to moderately reduce the number of class days in order to provide faculty with time to plan and prepare appropriately.
The amended abridged calendar can be found at this link.
Phased Opening and Changes to the Opening Week
Essentially, we will now begin in the “Hyflex” mode with a small group of students and slowly phase in the remainder of our students. This model will allow both the adults and students in our community to elect if they wish to teach or be a student in person or virtually.
The commencement of school for all students will be on August 24 as originally planned. For the faculty and students who elect to return to school in person there will be a phased return to campus as set forth below. Faculty, staff and families who elect to teach or have their children attend school remotely will do so. More information about the phased reopening is available in the Re-Entry Phases section on this webpage.
Field trips traditionally taken during the first weeks of school (e.g. 9th Grade to Lions Camp, the Devil’s Lake trip for the High School, middle school camping trips) will be cancelled for this school year.
Though it is difficult to project too far into the future, MCDS will be regularly reevaluating our calendar of events to determine if and how we can conduct major school events. With the challenges that large events like concerts, play performances, and parent/teacher conferences pose, the MCDS administration will be considering each event on a case by case basis and encouraging many events, particularly in the fall, to find alternative ways of accomplishing their goals. The best information with respect to the school calendar can be found in OnCampus.
In the 2020-21 school year, MCDS faculty will be tasked with providing the best for their students in the context of new modes of remote teaching and learning, uncertainty about the future, and the stress that accompanies a global pandemic. In almost every way imaginable, this will be uncharted territory and school in whatever form it takes, will look differently than it has in the past. As a community, flexibility and humility will be key values in forging a path forward.
To assist our teachers and students in this new venture, MCDS has sought out new affiliations, technology, and approaches for this next school year. Some of those efforts are summarized below.
Global Online Academy
As of this summer, MCDS has initiated a partnership with Global Online Academy, one of the leading organizations in the world for providing online courses and professional development to schools. This summer, every MCDS teacher will take courses on remote learning on topics ranging from assessment to specific strategies for engaging lower school students. In addition to this support, starting in the second semester, Global Online Academy will also provide additional course options for our middle and high school students in areas like Architecture, Computer Science, iOS App Design, Game Theory, and more.
To assist in our preparation for the possibility of online learning, MCDS has purchased a great deal of new classroom technology to support learning and has carved out time in our opening weeks for teachers and students to be trained on how to use the equipment and software to our advantage. Among the most conspicuous purchases are:
- Chromebooks for all lower school students
- Webcams with integrated microphones to support students tuning into classes from home
- Document cameras and camera stands for faculty use
- Upgraded internet bandwidth on campus
- Voice amplification technology for teachers
- Additional budget for computer repairs and security
New Software and OnCampus
MCDS will continue with our use of Zoom as a learning platform for the following school year. In addition, we have secured the use of platforms like GoFormative, BrainPop, SpellCity, FlipGrid, Kognity, and Screencastify Submit to assist in our remote learning efforts.
In addition to those new platforms, we will continue to standardize and improve our use of our current learning management system, OnCampus. Teachers will receive additional training to ensure that students have clear and predictable ways of accessing course content, assignments, and communication from teachers.
Absences for reasons related to COVID-19
The following policy language will be included in our updated 2020-21 student and family handbook.
As a matter of educational practice, MCDS will be attempting to operate in a safe manner with as much in-person instruction as possible. MCDS recognizes that this creates additional risks for students and their families, and while some community members will feel comfortable with this level of risk, others may not. With the possibility of people who are cohabitating with MCDS students testing positive, a student testing positive themselves but presenting asymptomatically, a student or family member exhibiting symptoms and waiting on a test, or other health conditions that would complicate a positive diagnosis of COVID-19, there are many potential reasons for keeping students away from the school building for extended periods of time. As a result, MCDS has developed the following policy for students who must remain out of the school building during times of in-person instruction for reasons related to COVID-19.
When the need for a student to be absent for reasons related to COVID-19 arises, the school must receive due notice to properly prepare to continue that student’s education online. Such a notification may be made in writing to the Division Head(s) as appropriate, and is most helpful with a minimum of two school days’ notice. The absence shall be planned for at least one week to ensure a smooth delivery of instruction.
At home, families will need to provide a quiet working space with appropriate technology, including working laptops or tablets with cameras and microphones, for their MCDS students. As instruction will be happening synchronously at school, it is important to note that students will be expected to follow the school schedule, attending class periods as they would if they were in the building. Because this kind of distance learning demands higher levels of engagement from the student, support in the family environment is critical to its success.
At such time as an absence from school will no longer be necessary, notice to the Division Head and School Nurse of at least two school days is expected.
In principle, Middle and High School students absent for reasons related to COVID-19 will be engaging in classes and other meetings as they would normally using Zoom. Students will be expected to attend classes as their in-person OnCampus schedule dictates, making sure to log on in due time for each class to the corresponding teacher’s Zoom room. Students should be prepared for their classes, with homework completed, ready to participate in class discussions or activities. To be successful in this method of learning, Middle and High School students will need to be organized and self-advocating, asking questions and seeking clarification from teachers and peers.
Teachers of students who are absent for COVID-19 related reasons will make every effort to continue the education of those students while still attending to the other students in their charge. As they would normally, teachers will be available beyond classroom hours for assistance to both students and families. In the Lower School, this will happen primarily in the form of a scheduled weekly Zoom meeting with the homeroom teacher. In the Middle and High School, this kind of assistance will occur by appointment.
Although there will not be the expectation for teachers to make additional instructional materials specifically for online students, faculty will post all classroom materials in OnCampus in a consistent manner. Feedback, assessment, and grading, as appropriate to the class and division, will continue as planned to the extent possible. In the event that a COVID-19 related absence makes completion of work by certain due dates difficult, appropriate accommodations will be provided to students to ensure that they are not penalized for their absence.
School and Administration Responsibilities
Upon the receipt of notice of a student’s absence for a COVID-19 related reason, the corresponding Division Head will communicate the expectations outlined in this document to the student, family, and relevant faculty. The appropriate technology and training—such as classroom cameras and microphones—will be provided to ensure that teachers are able to continue their engagement with students who are absent from the classroom.
Absences for a COVID-19 related reason will not count in the attendance policy that determines whether or not a student receives credit for a given class.
Because the absences of faculty members for reasons related to COVID-19 is also of concern, MCDS has increased the resources devoted to finding and compensating substitute teachers. Should a teacher need to be absent from school for reasons related to COVID-19, they will be supported by the school and an appropriate accommodation for their absence will be put in place.
As we move into a new phase of what education “looks like,’ it is imperative that we understand the implications of the new normal on our facilities planning and cleaning decisions. To that end, here are the considerations that we have considered for moving toward an in-person educational model. Some of the considerations are short-term and we will move into and out of as we navigate different phases of the pandemic. Other considerations are permanent changes to either systems or practices that will help move the school to a better set of best practices. Here are some of the considerations:
On both the exterior and interior, we will have signage indicating protocols such as masks, social distancing, etc. We will also have signage throughout the campus with regard to these practices, along with signage with reminders for things such as covering the cough, washing hands, staying positive and respectful, etc. Additionally, we will institute directional markings in more crowded areas in an effort to minimize clustering and interactions in more confined spaces.
Front desks will have plexiglass barriers to help keep front desk personnel safe. There may be some additional barriers in specific classrooms that are not easily reconfigurable to maintain adequate social distancing.
Parents, volunteers, and vendors will have limited building access. We are strongly encouraging all visitors who don’t have an appointment to refrain from entering the building. The exception to this will be the parents of our youngest students (Pre-K and K) will have restricted access at drop-off times for a TBD length of time into the school year-details on this procedure will be fleshed out as we get closer to reopening. Parent keycard access will remain inactive until we have returned to a fully open phase. To the greatest extent possible, we will have vendors restrict their visits to either before, or after school. As always, any necessary or emergency visits will be handled through the Lower School entrance.
Drinking Fountains & Sinks
We are currently in the process of replacing seven drinking fountains around the building with bottle fillers. We are strongly encouraging the use of individual drinking water bottles for each student to promote the reduction of repetitive contact points. All sinks and any drinking fountain not getting replaced has had its aerator replaced over the summer. Our water is tested every three months and remains completely safe.
We are stepping up our cleaning procedures to ensure the cleanest facilities possible. Both the frequency of cleaning, as well as the depth, have been increased. Our cleaning crew uses only EPA-approved disinfectants that have a track record of efficacy in mitigating and neutralizing microorganisms and pathogens while remaining safe for use around children. Additionally, our cleaning crews will begin to utilize a UV device to help eradicate pathogens in classrooms and other common spaces. These devices will only be used during unoccupied periods. Frequent contact surfaces, such as faucets, door handles, etc. will get disinfected on a daily basis. The MCDS Facilities Department will also utilize some smaller handheld UV devices to neutralize pathogens on a much smaller, localized area as needed. Deeper cleans will take place on an accelerated schedule, primarily during scheduled school breaks. The Facilities Department will also use a HEPA vacuum to clean up any “accidents”, in addition to PPE mandatory for any cleanup.
In planning for an in-person scenario, we began by calculating the square footage of each classroom space within the building. We then physically moved desks and chairs around in some sample classrooms to determine classroom capacities. A spreadsheet was created to calculate the overall building capacity. Once this was completed, it was apparent that we would have the space available to accommodate both adequate social distancing and our enrollment numbers.
We are repurposing the space that was occupied by Student Services to create a discreet isolation area. We have chosen this area because it meets several parameters:
- It is in a hallway that will have little traffic;
- There are restrooms nearby;
- It has its own HVAC system; and,
- It has a nearby exit door in another low-traffic area.
This isolation area will be staffed in the case of active illness. It will get outfitted with cots and we have also purchased HEPA & UV-C air purifiers for both the isolation area as well as the adjacent restrooms.
HVAC and Indoor Air Quality
MCDS is thoroughly researching various options to help improve the IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) through our HVAC system. Given the size and complexity of our systems, it is a monumental task. As we research the available options, we must conduct a mindful cost-benefit analysis on each of the options. Add to this the lack of sufficient data with regard to the effectiveness of these treatments (in part because COVID-19 hasn’t been released for broad testing with these solutions) and the task becomes even more difficult.
We need to get it right and will take the time necessary to make sure that we do. We will update this information after we have chosen our solution.
Arrival at School
Outside sidewalk will be marked for 6 feet spacing.
Delayed Start Time
Students will be allowed in school starting at 7:45 a.m. and we will delay the start of individual classes until everyone has arrived or 8:15 a.m., whichever comes first.
Lower School Arrival
- All LS students will be screened while in their parent’s car. Once cleared, they will enter through the LS main entrance.
- Students older than five years of age must wear a mask upon entry and while waiting in line.
- Upon entrance, students will go directly to their classrooms.
- All students should wash hands upon arrival in the classroom if there is a sink.
- Pre-K and K families will have the option of having one parent walk their child directly to the classroom in the morning. The parent will need to be screened before entering and wear a mask while in the building. This option will only be available through Thanksgiving.
Middle School Arrival
- Students will be screened while in their parent’s car if being dropped off by a parent. Students being dropped off by an older sibling with a parked car, will be screened at the MS/HS entrance.
- Students will enter at the MS/HS entrance and verify their screening or be screened before they enter.
- Students must wear a mask upon entry and while waiting in line.
- They will go directly to their classrooms.
High School Arrival
- Students will be screened while in their parent’s car if being dropped off by a parent.
- Students will enter at the entrance by the HUB and verify their screening or be screened before they enter.
- Students must wear a mask upon entry and while waiting in line.
- Students will go directly to their classrooms.
Late students should go to either the LS or MS/HS entrance to check in at the kiosk and have the front desk personnel administer screening if it has not already been done via Ruvna.
Departure from School
Details on departure will be coming shortly with maps & instructions per grade & class.
DPI Education Forward
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s handbook on reopening Wisconsin schools