Verona Area School District administrative building March 2020

The outside of the Verona Area School District administration building.

The Verona Area School District is pausing its “plus” opportunities – only a handful of days or weeks after starting them – in response to Public Health Madison and Dane County’s latest order.

The order, which takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 18, prohibits indoor gatherings among people outside the same household, and limits outdoor gatherings to 10 people with social distancing requirements. The order comes as Dane County continues to see high rates of COVID-19 transmission throughout, with a 292% increase since Oct. 7, according to the order.

The latest county data snapshot, published on Nov. 12, states that slightly more than half of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 live outside of Madison, and the City of Fitchburg, which is partially in the school district boundaries, had a higher positivity rate than the county average.

The order specifically takes aim at indoor mass gatherings, which include people going to parties outside of their home in the two weeks prior to testing positive. Other indoor gatherings prohibited until at least Dec. 16 include sports and competitions, movies and conferences, the order states.

In an email to families on Nov. 17, superintendent Dean Gorrell said that the district was suspending all in-person sports practices and contact days after consulting with the district’s legal counsel. It was unclear whether the district could legally continue to operate its pools for community use or hold “plus” opportunities for students.

Under the order, in-person K-2 education is allowed to continue.

“Plus” opportunities have been the district’s solution for bridging the gap between virtual learning and in-person support. At the elementary and middle schools, staff have offered “plus” opportunities to a limited number of students who were deemed to be more vulnerable based on academic performance and engagement.

High school students have been able to take tours or participate in in-person activities such as welding or pottery.

Administration had announced at school board meetings back in October that they had been planning to start “plus” opportunities before or at the start of the second quarter.

“We just started many ‘Plus’ opportunities, which our staff worked incredibly hard to make available, and the kids were so excited to participate in them,” Gorrell wrote in the email to families. “It will take our collective efforts pulling in the same direction to slow the spread of this virus so that all of our children can safely return to school.”

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