Play 60 Virtual Field Trip

Logan McClure high-fives the Wildcat mascot during an NFL “Play 60” virtual field trip on Wednesday, Oct. 23, in the Verona Area High School K-Wing building gym. The virtual field trip included VAHS football players and students with special needs doing football drills together, learning about measuring heartbeats and healthy eating.

Verona Area School District’s students with Individual Education or 504 plans will be able to receive in-person schooling at the start of the year.

On Monday, Sept. 1, Public Health Madison and Dane County released the amendment to Emergency Order 9 issued Aug. 21. The change, which went into effect Sept. 2, allows for in-person instruction for students in any grade with a disability and/or an Individualized Education Program who, due to their unique needs, may need to receive in-person instruction under state law.

Public and private school buildings and grounds remain able to open for in-person student instruction in grades K-2, with precautions. Students in grades 3-12 are still required to begin the school year virtually until county health orders allow them to return.

District superintendent Dean Gorrell wrote in an email to the Press he is pleased that PHMDC had made the change to allow students with special needs to receive in-person schooling. After PHMDC announced the order, Gorrell shared his disappointment with the order’s lack of flexibility for students with IEPs or 504 plans.

While the district had put its “plus” options for in-person support for most district students, staff had been actively working on developing in-person special education prior to the county order that effectively prohibited services for students in grades 3-12.

“We had been planning to provide in-person instruction for some of our children with IEPs prior to Order No. 9 so this brings us back in alignment to where we had started,” he wrote.

District assistant superintendent for student services Emmett Durtschi, who oversees special education, said in an email to the Press the state-mandated school closure in March made apparent the difficulties that came with meeting the needs of students with IEPs or 504 plans virtually.

“We strongly support the revision to Order No. 9 which provides us an important tool we may use to support some of our most vulnerable students,” he wrote.

— Reporter Scott De Laruelle contributed to this story.