VASD K-2s return to in-person classes

K-1 teacher Emily Utzig teaches New Century students inside their new-to-them building on the first day of school, Tuesday, Sept. 8. Students in grades K-2 were allowed to opt in to half-day, in-person learning as a part of the phased return for Verona Area School District students. Students in grades 3-12, with an exception for those with Individual Education Plans or 504 plans, started the year virtually.

Seven out of every 10 Verona Area School District middle and high school students opted to return to classrooms in February.

District public information officer Raechelle Belli wrote in an email to the Press Wednesday, Jan. 6, that 70.7% of middle school families chose to send their students back to school for a hybrid learning model.

That model involves students being separated into cohorts, where they’ll be in-person for two days a week and virtual for another two.

That hybrid model will also have concurrent learning — teachers educating their in-person and virtual students at the same time. That’s as current Public Health Madison and Dane County orders mandate social distancing to the best of the district’s ability.

The remaining 29.3% of middle school families elected to keep their students in the virtual learning model for the entirety of the second semester.

A similar percentage of high school families selected the in-person hybrid option – 68.5% of students, or around 1,150 of Verona Area High School’s 1,671 students. The other 31.5% will stay virtual until the school year wraps up June 9.

In December, district administration announced plans for bringing back students in grades 3-5. That was in anticipation of new PHMDC school recommendations encouraging phasing more students in, which was announced in mid-December.

Board members only discussed the plan for bringing students back at the Dec. 21 meeting to provide administrators with feedback on how to proceed; the board already voted on the in-person phased-in model in July, and it’s the district’s role to define how that decision is operationally carried out.

Belli wrote in the email that the district got a great response to the parent selection form, which was due Jan. 5. Earlier in the week, as of 9 a.m. Jan. 4, nearly 900 parent response forms between the middle and high schools were outstanding; that number was whittled down to just 27 missing forms for middle school students and 83 for high school students on the due date.

The final percentage of families who selected either option changed slightly from what was reported out by Belli on Jan. 4 for middle schoolers, but dipped nearly 10 percentage points for high schoolers. By Jan. 4, 73.9% had chosen the hybrid option for their middle schoolers, while 26.1% chose all-virtual. At the high school, 77% of families selected the hybrid option, and 23% chose virtual.

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.