Additional Asynchronous Learning for MMSD Students Begins Monday

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) — Students in the Madison Metropolitan School District began making up for lost time Monday through asynchronous learning, and some parents hoped the district would handle the situation differently.

“Asynchronous” means not synchronous or independent. Students will complete the extra time on their own time rather than together.

In a letter to families, the district explained that the decision was due to a three-day suspension of learning in January. The students were scheduled to return from winter break on January 3, but the break was extended. Students almost returned on January 6th and in person on January 10th.

Parent Jen Talbot said she was frustrated that her 11-year-old son’s schedule could be disrupted by asynchronous learning and that it could prevent him from participating in extracurricular activities such as kickboxing.

“I know they’re doing their best, but honestly I think it’s a lazy cop,” Talbot said. “It’s like being here, just giving them some extra homework so we can meet this deadline or this goal, it’s really not going to be offered like having a student in class.”

She would have liked to add three extra school days at the end of the year.

“It’s not going to really change our schedule,” she said. “And it would be more beneficial. I think they learn better in class than just assigning homework, and I think they proved that when the pandemic first hit.”

Tim LeMonds, executive director of communications at MMSD, said an extended school year would have a negative impact on the mental health of students and staff.

“We wanted to avoid doing this to our students, and we thought it was just a better option,” LeMonds said.

Asynchronous hours will be virtual and exist to meet the learning requirements set by the State of Wisconsin.

LeMonds said it was the best way to meet the demands without exhausting staff and students after a stressful year.

“We can’t forget why we were suspended,” he said. “That’s to be able to stay open. Another option is to close our schools, which we know is not good for anyone.”

The suspension is due to the COVID-19 surge in the community. Public Health Madison and Dane County were documenting the spread of the Omicron variant at the time. The week the students returned, the seven-day rolling average of new cases hit a high of nearly 11,500 positive cases.

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