Re-Entry Plans (last updated: 7-3-20)

Health Measures

MCDS advantages include our expansive campus, small class sizes, and faculty agility and creativity. We anticipate in-person instruction beginning August 24 while following health and safety guidelines to keep our students and community as safe as possible. 

We recognize that we may be required by an executive order from the governor or a directive from public health officials to spend time off campus, or simultaneously off and on campus with some students at home due to illness or family situations and others on campus. We are both committed and well-positioned to provide the maximum learning for children in the richest possible environment in all of these scenarios.

Dane County Public Health released its Forward Dane guidelines and WI Department of Instruction released its Education Forward plan to safely and successfully reopen WI schools. These documents serve as interim guidance for public schools. Note the word “interim”: much is still in flux with how our state is managing the spread of this virus. As an independent school, we take guidance from our state government, our public health officials, and from our peer schools. We translate this information, when and where we can, into what is best for MCDS.

Below are the health related and virus containment strategies MCDS will have in place for Sessions 3-6 of Summer Discovery camp and the opening of school on August 24.

The major areas are:

  • Physical distancing and space use
  • Minimizing exposure
  • Face coverings
  • Cleaning and hygiene
  • Monitoring for symptoms

Physical distancing and space use

  • Our task force has mapped out capacity for students in classrooms assuming 6 feet of distance between occupants and is making adjustments to which classes will be held in which classrooms. Fortunately, we have a large and flexible campus with classrooms of varying sizes. We also have a great deal of outdoor space we will use for recess and teaching, weather permitting.
  • Our campus will marked with clear directional signage for hallway traffic.
  • We will limit the size of student groups as much as possible.

Minimizing exposure

  • Students will limit their travel around our campus.
  • We are working with Taher to provide a staggered lunch delivery system, including possible individual servings of food in the classroom.
  • Students will stagger passing and recess times throughout the day.
  • We will limit parent and visitor entry into the school during arrival and dismissal.

Face coverings

  • Face coverings for children is challenging, and we continue to investigate this. See our “face coverings” section for more information.

Cleaning and hygiene

  • Moses, Abraham, and our dedicated cleaning crew is following the highest standards of disinfection of our spaces.
  • Teachers will teach, supervise, and reinforce handwashing for all students.
  • Hand sanitizer is available far and wide, including an additional 25 hand-sanitizing stations scattered around campus.
  • Teachers will increase the frequency of disinfection of any and all shared objects.
  • We will limit the sharing of personal items and supplies. Teachers will increase the frequency of disinfection of any and all shared objects.

Monitoring for symptoms

  • All students, faculty, staff, and visitors will be screened daily before entering buildings.
  • Anyone with a temperature greater than 100.4 will not be allowed to enter the school and will be sent home immediately.

Academics Plan

MCDS advantages include our expansive campus, small class sizes, and faculty agility and creativity. We anticipate in-person instruction beginning August 24 while following required social distancing guidelines. 

We recognize that we may be required by an executive order from the governor or a directive from public health officials to spend time off campus, or simultaneously off and on campus with some students at home due to illness or family situations and others on campus. We are both committed and positioned to provide the maximum learning for children in the richest possible environment in all of these scenarios.

Assuming limitations on movement and gathering might come at any point throughout the 2020-21 school year, we are planning for variations of distancing. Our current thinking allows for a hyflex scenario for MCDS would allow for PreK-6 students to remain in the building at all times in smaller group sizes of 10-12, while 7/8 and 9-12 students would flex between a week of on-campus and a week of MCDS@home. During MCDS@home, upper middle and high school students would follow a pre-determined schedule according to calendar date of 5 synchronous classes each day.

We are preparing a plan to allow for individual students unable to attend class for an extended period of time due to COVID-19 related issues to “tune in” to live classes from home. 

More details are available in the Academics section below.


Please submit any questions to this form. Questions pertaining to a large group will be answered on an FAQ document to be updated weekly and posted on this web page.

Campus Plans (last updated: 6-24-20)

2020-21 Task Force Planning

As noted, our planning for the 2020-2021 school year is well underway. We intend to begin on our scheduled date of August 24 (as noted in our Abridged Calendar) on campus.

In the coming weeks and throughout the summer we will be providing increasingly detailed information regarding our Re-Entry Plan for the 2020-2021 school year.

Our Re-Entry Task Force, comprised of administrators, staff, faculty, trustees, educational experts, and medical advisors, is continually addressing all aspects of the opening of school in August, including:

  • Prioritizing the health and safety of our entire MCDS community.
  • Following specific health precautions in accordance with federal, state, and local requirements as well as the recommendations of our MCDS medical advisors.
  • Collaborating with leaders of Independent Schools from around the country and the world in examining a variety of scenarios—and their implications—for the coming year. We intend to begin the year together on campus. However, we will be prepared in the event we must shift to a combination of on-campus and MCDS@home teaching and learning.
  • Planning that honors physical distancing and innovative space use. One of MCDS’ advantages is our small class sizes and our expansive campus—along with creative and resourceful educators who are adept at making the most of it.
  • Continuing our studied approach to MCDS’ relationship-based MCDS@home model, including refinement of our work over the past spring through careful analysis and ongoing professional development throughout the spring and summer. MCDS faculty have been nothing short of extraordinary during this crisis. As ever, this will continue—whether we are on campus, off-campus, doing both simultaneously, or toggling between the two.

Driven by Mission

As always, our school mission remains front and center, a driving force in shaping MCDS’ response to the pandemic. While this period is undoubtedly challenging, it also presents unique opportunities to respond with different learning modalities and approaches to relationship-based distance learning. 


The mission of Madison Country Day School is to provide an intellectually stimulating, personally enriching, and academically challenging program in the liberal arts and sciences to an able and diverse student body. Furthermore, we measure the curriculum and student achievement against the finest programs in the world. We also contribute to the larger community by developing effective educational programs to serve as models for other private and public schools.

Key Understandings

In planning for the next school year, we are operating under the following assumptions:

  • we are going through a monumentally stressful and disruptive time in history, and we should not expect to flip a switch back to “normal;”
  • there will be heightened attention to matters of wellness  and public health which will impact our students, their families, and the format which learning  needs to occur;
  • various formal and informal forms of social distancing will continue; and
  • coronavirus waves are predicted to cause future short-term, place-specific stay-at-home orders for the foreseeable future.

Our Immediate Goals

  • Deliver our mission while keeping our students and community safe and healthy.
  • Adjust academic schedules for maximum flexibility between normal, blended, and distance learning modes
  • Adjust physical environment for distancing and heightened public-health protocols
  • Review programs, policies, and procedures for safe operations
  • Identify tools and resources to make work easier and effective in this environment

Task Forces

  • We are beginning with what we can control in the spring and early summer. Working groups were created this spring to review:
    • School Calendar
    • Re-Entry
    • Academics
    • Physical Health and Safety
    • Mental Health
    • Facilities and Operations
    • Financial Contingencies
    • Policy Ramifications

    These groups rely on guidelines from governmental and health bodies as well as business and medical experts within our community.

Health Planning (last updated: 7-1-20)


Re-opening in the fall is organized around the following framework to keep our community healthy.

  • Education about the virus and how to stay healthy
  • Program adjustments to maximize individual and community wellness
  • Physical and social adjustments to minimize risk of exposure
  • Monitoring regional and local outbreaks to understand community risk
  • Ensuring individuals coming to campus are of low risk of spreading illness
  • Tracking individual cases and trending illnesses within our community
  • Communicating with local health authorities and internal community
  • Adjusting operational modes
  • Implementing cleaning and disinfecting protocols

Health and Safety Team

Dane County Public Health released its Forward Dane guidelines and WI Department of Instruction released its Education Forward plan to safely and successfully reopen Wisconsin schools. These documents serve as interim guidance for public schools. Much is still in flux with how our state is managing the spread of this virus. As an independent school, we are and will be looking at our own school community, Dane County, Wisconsin, and CDC guidelines to determine whether we will be in a face-to-face, Hyflex, or full MCDS@home 2.0 model of teaching and learning. We will consistently translate health guidance, when and where we can, into what is best for MCDS.

Using guidance from trusted health authorities, this group is working together to determine the best policy and operational approaches to keep our community healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak. Areas the committee is exploring include:

  • Providing educational frameworks and approaches to keep the community informed regarding health and wellness best-practices
  • Providing guidance on PPE, screening, contact tracing or school closure recommendations
  • Developing methods for communication with divisions about on-campus health trends
  • Conferring with the Facilities, Operations, Academics, and Extracurriculars/Athletics teams

Our health and safety team is comprised of medical professionals with connections to MCDS as well as faculty and staff.

Medical Team Members include Dr. Makeba Williams, Dr. Michael Kim, Dr. Maggie Nolan, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, and School Nurse Tiffany Hanna.


Facilities and Operations Team

This group is reviewing governmental and health guidelines on an ongoing basis to develop clear and reasonable operational guidelines and protocols for facilities use. Areas of exploration include:

Campus Use
  • Occupancy guidelines/restrictions based on state recommendations
  • Expectations for parents, prospective students, and outside visitors
  • Campus-wide cleaning protocols
  • Sourcing and procurement of resources
  • Installation of additional handwashing or sanitizing stations
Social Distancing Physical Adaptations
  • Recommendations for spacing/barriers to desks and counters in classrooms, offices, and public spaces
  • Procedures to reduce touching of doors and/or cleaning of heavily used objects
  • Developing appropriate signage/wayfinding instructions
Social Distancing Human Adaptations
  • Altering “human traffic” patterns
  • Potential restrictions for lockers and other max-contact areas
  • Gathering guidelines and/or restrictions for larger groups

Face Coverings

While facial coverings are not 100% effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, early data indicates a reduction in transmission rates with facial coverings to both the wearer and those they come in contact with. MCDS and its medical advisors will be monitoring these recommendations and updating as more data is available, so these requirements may change.

  • Faculty and staff are required to wear facial coverings at all times in the building. There is no specific required covering type – a cloth mask, a face shield, or a paper mask are all acceptable ways to meet the requirement. A faculty or staff member who is unable to use any type of facial covering for a medical reason should discuss their specific situation with the Head of School. 
  • Parents and visitors are strongly discouraged from entering the school building while school is in session. If a parent or visitor must enter, they will be required to wear facial covering at all times in the building, even if they go through a screening process. Only people involved with supporting programming, learning, or building maintenance can enter the building with exceptions for parents of Pre-K and K at drop off. Parents and visitors should bring their own facial covering to ensure proper fit.
  • Students in grades 5-12 are required to wear facial coverings when within 6 feet of others in the building. Students in Pre-K through grade 4 are recommended to wear a facial covering at school. Facial coverings are especially important at times when students may come into close contact with others, such as hallways and common areas. Even using facial covering on and off throughout the day provides some protection. Our uniform provider, Lands End, will be offering face masks in our school uniform store as an option to parents. However, any type of facial covering is acceptable as long as the student understands how to properly wear the covering and is capable of independently managing the covering. Our school staff is ready to assist students with questions on how to properly use a facial covering they bring from home, along with gentle reminders to students throughout the day about proper usage.

Regardless of facial covering type selected, all persons wearing facial coverings in the MCDS building are responsible for researching the correct usage and ensuring that they are trained in proper use and care of the facial covering. All facial coverings used should be cleaned daily. Students should not wear facial coverings during physical activities. Persons with breathing difficulties should not wear facial coverings. Questions about specific medical conditions that may restrict or modify covering use should be discussed with a pediatrician or School Nurse Tiffany Hanna.


CDC Guidance on Facial Coverings
CDC Guidance on Washing Facial Coverings

Outbreak Policy

MCDS is ready to respond to a case or cases of COVID-19 on campus. In all cases, we will be working with Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) to develop a customized response to confirmed case(s) in our school building.

If a student, faculty member, staff member, or visitor falls ill:

  • MCDS has designated an isolation area for any persons who develop symptoms while at school.
  • The sick person being isolated will be assisted by a trained staff member. The sick person will be asked to put on a facemask if not already wearing one, and move away from other students and staff members in the room. The front desk who will send a trained staff member to retrieve the sick person. Care will be taken to support the emotional wellbeing of the sick person so they can feel calm, comfortable, and informed.
  • The sick person will be escorted to the isolation area. The school nurse or health staff will evaluate the student before contacting parents or designated caregiver. A trained staff member will stay with any student entering the isolation area.
  • The school nurse or health care staff will alert the emergency contact that the student needs to leave campus. We ask that parents be ready to immediately retrieve a student in the event of illness, or designate an adult to do so. This is a good time to update your emergency contacts in OnCampus and regularly review those contacts for accuracy. 
  • Preventing the spread of infection relies on good communication and a strong parent-school partnership. We ask parents to stay in regular contact with front desk staff and School Nurse Tiffany Hanna any time a student is feeling ill. A student who leaves due to illness should not return to the school building until they are symptom free for 72 hours, or with a doctor’s note confirming a different diagnosis. Please inform Nurse Hanna any time a student or other person who entered the MCDS building is being tested for COVID-19, even if the result is negative.
  • MCDS will coordinate with Public Health Madison & Dane County to notify families whose students had contact with a positive case, based on their recommendations and guidance. You may not receive specific information about the sick person in order to protect their privacy. We all share the same goal of ensuring that any positive case on campus does not spread to others.
  • MCDS will coordinate with Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) to decide on next steps for the community as a whole. Depending on the exposure level, certain classes, grades, divisions or the whole school may need to return to MCDS@home and/or the school building may need to be closed for deep cleaning. Each situation is different and PHMDC will be advising MCDS on the appropriate response.

FAQ about Return to School after Exposure

Click here to access our FAQ about returning to the school building after exposure.

Screening Policy

The goal of screening will be to reinforce known methods to avoid virus transmission, such as staying home when ill, isolating those with symptoms, and providing clear information to community members about what symptoms should cause concern.

  • All persons entering the school building, including staff, faculty, visitors and students, will be screened upon entry. All students will be screened on entry.
  • Entrances and exits may have specific students, grades or divisions assigned. We will release more information about the dropoff & pickup process before the first day of school.
  • Parents and other visitors will be discouraged from entering the building. If a parent or visitor must enter while school is in session, they will be screened.
  • Any student, parent, or other visitor to the building with a fever or displaying symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to enter.
  • Parents should keep students home if:
    • The student is being tested for COVID-19
    • Someone in the student’s household tests positive for COVID-19
    • The student is exposed to a known case of COVID-19 (closer than 6 ft for more than 15 minutes)
    • The student displays any of the following symptoms (student must remain home until 72 hours after the symptoms pass, or with a doctor’s note confirming a non-COVID diagnosis). 
      • Fever (100.4F (temporal, ear) or 100F (oral) or above)
      • Body aches
      • Chills
      • Cough and/or breathing difficulties
      • Severe congestion
      • Headache
      • Nausea/vomiting
      • Sore throat
  • Preventing the spread in the MCDS community relies on good communication and a strong parent-school partnership. Parents should keep in regular contact with School Nurse Tiffany Hanna if their student is symptomatic, if their student is being tested, or if a household member tests positive. If the above symptoms are present, testing for Covid-19 through your healthcare provider is strongly encouraged in order to initiate the contact-tracing process. We would appreciate receiving student test results even if a test is negative.
  • MCDS will make every effort to maintain student confidentiality and privacy, while following the rule of good community communication. Every single member of the MCDS community is valued and deserves respect. Any situations of concern should be immediately reported to the Head of School.

Academic Planning (last updated: 6-24-20)

Guiding Principles

This group is developing robust, flexible, and mission-driven curricular delivery mechanisms that provide instructional continuity and excellence within a variety of scenarios.

This past spring was a lucrative period of experimentation and we learned a great deal. Moving forward, we will

  • leverage those lessons to implement digital homebase/daily routines for each class that could support both virtual and face to face learning,
  • streamline communication and course expectations,
  • and evaluate appropriate expectations in a hybrid environment.

In looking at blended and distance course design and schedules, we will prioritize a

Learning mode that:
  • allows for coordinated and clear communication,
  • builds opportunities for collaboration and community building, and
  • accommodates base instructional delivery regardless of location.
Schedule that
  • reduces unnecessary contact between individuals as much as possible,
  • easily pivots between different delivery modes, and
  • provides the flexibility necessary to run robust co-curricular programming for advisory, clubs, activities, and community building.
Together, these elements
  • promote employee and student wellness, and
  • are philosophically aligned with our mission and beliefs about learning.

Projecting Different Operating Modes

We are prepared to shift between several operational modes next school year. The following are potential scenarios pending health regulations:

  • On Campus / Traditional Operations
  • Hyflex Learning
  • MCDS@home / Essential Personnel Only

Current planning assumes school will open on August 24 with physical distancing expectations in place.

A mild form of distancing might see no large indoor gatherings on campus, such as lunch, presentations, and assemblies. It might also assume a limit on large community events, even if they are held outdoors, because social distancing would be too difficult to enforce. 

Hyflex Model Explained

Living with a highly contagious virus means that our routines will be disrupted to minimize spread until a treatment or vaccine can be fully implemented. If restrictions are imposed (e.g., groups are limited to 10:1 or a specific grade level must quarantine) and MCDS moves to a Hyflex Model, we will modify student attendance on campus to minimize risk of transmission. 

Assuming limitations on movement and gathering might come, we are planning for variations of distancing. The most likely hyflex scenario for MCDS would allow for PreK-6 students to remain in the building at all times, while 7/8 and 9-12 students would flex between a week of on-campus and a week of MCDS@home. During MCDS@home, students would follow a pre-determined schedule according to calendar date of 5 synchronous classes each day.

MCDS explored a variety of models to land on this potential scenario, which would allow for our youngest and least independent learners to remain on campus while capitalizing on the skills we are able to teach upper middle and high school students in an @home scenario. In all modes, the desire is to maximize the time students can have in face-to-face interactions with teachers, while also providing a robust digital core to serve as a home base for learning.

While being apart is not ideal,we are confident that we can deliver the highest quality blended learning experience for students even within any potential face-to-face restrictions. 

Deciding Which Mode

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).

Athletics and Extracurriculars in Hybrid Mode

It is too early to fully project how Athletics might look next school year. Partner organizations are exploring and adapting in forward-thinking ways, and we will continue to work with them to deliver the safest and highest quality opportunities that we can. 

Our hope is to offer a robust team sports experience that contributes to a MCDS education. Additionally we are creating contingency plans for any number of scenarios that may arise.

In the case of athletics, official competitions will be determined in partnership with our state and local organizations.

We hope to continue offering after-school activities for our MCDS students. These high-quality, enrichment classes focus on meaningful experiences in a wide variety of topics. Our teams of teachers are exploring options for blended and distance learning should the need arise. 


Activities and Field Trips

MCDS students have always engaged with their community with numerous activities and field trips, including our beginning-of-year team-building adventures. Within safe boundaries, we will continue to make every effort possible to get students off campus. 

Financial Considerations and Support (last updated: 6-24-20)

School Finances

In its short history, MCDS has weathered a handful of storms: the change in governance in its first years, 9/11, the 2008-2009 recession, dramatic enrollment increases, and now a pandemic. We will continue to focus on delivering our mission to our students and will emerge stronger than ever from this challenge. 

Like many schools and businesses, MCDS carries debt. Additionally, it has experienced a number of unanticipated financial impacts resulting from COVID-19, especially as it relates to a drop in ancillary (non-tuition) income that directly supports the academic program and general operational expenses and a challenging online enrollment season.

We anticipate additional costs this summer as we prepare the campus for social distancing and as our faculty works hard to build their distance learning plans. 

Tuition and Fees

The school is happy to pass along cost savings to families during the time that relationship-based distance learning has occurred. MCDS has provided refunds for unused lunch services, extracurriculars, and transportation. Additionally, Extended Day is billed on an “as incurred” basis, and MCDS does not charge for Extended Day care that is not delivered. 
The school’s primary revenue source is tuition and its main expense is teacher salaries. In order to ensure that an exceptional relationship-based educational experience continues to be delivered to all students, whether in the form of on-campus learning or through MCDS@home, MCDS does not have the ability to refund tuition dollars while it continues to deliver on its mission.

Supporting Families in Need

With data collected from the fall scenarios family planning survey, we are aware that over ⅓ of our MCDS families have been negatively financially impacted by the pandemic. Our community is incredibly important and we take care of each other. We are committed to keeping our community together. If your family has been negatively impacted to the point where you are worried about tuition for the upcoming school year, we have several options available to help. Please reach out to Alice Torti, Director of Finance, to discuss 2020-21 school year emergency relief grants and/or custom payment plans for MCDS families impacted by the pandemic. Conversations with MCDS staff about a family’s financial circumstances are held in strictest confidence.

FAQs (last updated 7-1-20)

FAQ document (check back often for updates)