Public Health Madison & Dane County issue emergency order requiring grades 3-12 begin school year online

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 5:38 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Due to Dane County’s current average COVID-19 case count, an emergency order has been issued by Public Health Madison & Dane County requiring all county schools begin the school year online for grades 3-12.

“This is hard,” County Executive Joe Parisi told NBC15. “It’s hard for parents. It’s hard for the young people. Bottom line is we’re trying to save lives.”

Parisi also said the order follows a notice from state officials earlier this week, that there will be no statewide mandate for schools.

“They were leaving it up to local health departments to come up with their own,” he explained.

According to a news release, grade K-2 are still allowed to hold in-person instruction, with precautions outlined in the emergency order. Schools with grades K-2 are not required to open for in person instruction, but if they do they are required to offer online learning options for students.

“Moving students in grades 3-12 to virtual learning is not a step we take lightly, as schools provide critical services, and in-person instruction offers unparalleled opportunities and structure for students and parents,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. “Given our current case count, we believe moving students in grades 3-12 to virtual learning is necessary for the safety of our community.”

Public Health Madison & Dane County said in order to consider in person instruction for grades 3-5, Dane County must report a 14-day average of at most 39 cases per day for four consecutive weeks. For grades 6-12, Dane County must report a 14-day average of at most 19 cases per day for four consecutive weeks.

Dane County is currently averaging 42 cases per day, according to the release. Numbers from the Department of Health Services revealed an average of 3.01 percent of tests returned positive this week.

Public Health Madison & Dane County said if the county’s average number of cases per day over a two-week period increase above 54, they will consider cancelling all in person instruction.

The metrics and criteria used in the emergency order were created with guidance from Forward Dane, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Harvard Global Health Institute, and the Minnesota Department of Public Health, among others, according to the release.

“As we’ve seen throughout the country, schools that are opening too quickly—particularly with older students—are having outbreaks,” said Parisi. “By allowing K-2 students to return to the classroom with strict precautions and keeping grades 3-12 virtual, we can minimize outbreaks. Many school districts have already made the decision to go virtual for all grades, and we support their choice.”

The full news release can be found here.

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