Madison students will embark on a special four-week fourth quarter beginning next week.

Announced last Wednesday, the four-week quarter will run from April 13 through May 11, with some end date variations for particular high school classes. School administrators will mail students packets and information with their third-quarter report card on Friday. Work completed by students in kindergarten through eighth grade will not be turned in. Instead, parents will certify their child completed the assignments. At the high school level, essential work, as deemed by teachers, will need to be turned in via a drop box located outside the school.

Madison County Public Schools Superintendent Anna Graham said administrators really focused on prioritizing the physical and emotional wellbeing of students and making literacy the top priority.

“Quantity doesn’t replace quality,” she said.

Graham said the work sent home will focus on the five c’s of learning established in the state’s Profile of a Virginia Graduate—critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and citizenship skills. She said it will include project based learning and performance based assessments.

“We’re not expecting school as usual,” Graham said.

She said the students won’t need to access technology to complete the work, except for as necessary in some high school classes.

“This wasn’t [something that was] slapped together,” she said. “There was a thought process behind it. We wanted to make sure good, concise stuff was sent home.”

Graham emphasized that students would not earn any grade lower than the one they were already on track to receive when school closed last month. She said students in kindergarten through eighth-grades will be promoted to the next grade level when school restarts in the fall unless a prior discussion had already been held with parents, something she said would have happened before the school closure.

Madison County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Cathy Jones said for students in kindergarten through eighth grades, the final grade for a class will consist of the average of the first three quarter grades.

For high school students, the final grade will be determined by averaging all accumulated grades. Graham said students will also be given the opportunity to make up any work that may be missing within reason. For example, students cannot make up any science labs since they don’t have access to the necessary equipment outside of the classroom. Any work still missing at the end of the four-week period will be noted in the student’s file. Those students could then have the opportunity to complete the assignment at the beginning of the next school year. As for bringing up grades, that’s something students will have to work out with their individual teachers. Graham said parents could also opt to forgo a letter grade for a pass or fail designation. Final grades will be finished by May 26.

Jones said anything not taught during the closure will be covered at the beginning of the new school year. She said staff members are currently working to rewrite their curriculum and pacing guides to reflect those changes.

As for graduation, Jones said the guidance department is working to review each senior’s transcript to determine their eligibility. Each senior will be contacted by the department. Jones said those students not currently on track to graduate, but close enough within reason could possibly do so and will have opportunities to demonstrate their competency of a subject.

“If a senior has not done anything yet, that’s hard, but students on the bubble we will be working with,” Graham added.

She said the school division is also working to develop a plan for a graduation ceremony to be held at a future date. She said she doesn’t feel confident at this time selecting a date.

“We really want to hold off,” she said. “We don’t want to throw a date out there and have to cancel again.”

Senior and student school board representative Kaleigh Tyler said she was happy to hear that.

“That’s great news,” she said. “Seniors will be so glad to hear that. Walking across the stage is something a lot of us have been looking forward to for a long time.”

Plans for senior awards and scholarships are also in flux.

“We’re trying to do as much as we can to make a year that was supposed to be special still a special and good year for them,” Graham said.

Madison County High School Principal Betty-Jo Wynham encouraged her students to not stress the little things.

“There’s a lot of anxiety, a lot of unknowns,” she said. “All colleges across the country will know this is happening. Think of a way to stand out during this time to be someone a company will want to hire or a school will want to enroll. When you think about the what ifs you end up in the rabbit hole.”

School board member Arthur Greene, Jr. said his heart goes out to seniors and their families. Board member Nita Collier suggested all families focus on this time of being together.

“Give yourself grace families and love your kids,” she said.

High school students in dual enrollment classes will continue those through Germanna Community College and those in advanced placement classes will be contacted with information on taking AP exams online. Cosmetology and nursing students will also still be able to take their licensing exams. Those in virtual Virginia classes will also continue to work on their classes. No summer school will be held in June. It’s unknown if it will be able to be held in July.

For special education students, case managers will be reaching out to families to develop plans. Counselors are also available to speak with any student on an as-needed basis.

Those in need of technology to complete their classes, specifically dual enrollment and virtual Virginia students, can contact the school to obtain a loaner Chromebook. Graham said the division is also in the process of installing antennas at each of its school buildings to broadcast wireless internet to the accompanying parking lots.

“This isn’t required for students to advance to the next grade level or sequential course, but families can have the availability if they want it. We hope it’ll be permanent after COVID-19. We think it’s a nice addition to the community.”

Graham said the antennas should be up and working by April 13.

Meanwhile, the school division is also rolling out a pilot program of approximately 25 wireless internet hotspots throughout the county by partnering with several companies.

“It’s tricky because the county is rural and even with a hotspot, a user may still not have good service,” she said. “But it’s worth testing.”

The equipment to launch the hotspots is on backorder, but expected to arrive in late April or early May. Graham said the school division is also working with online program partners like Lexis to create free accounts for students to use at home.

As for how to pick up belongings, school administrators will be reaching out to families to work out a plan for how and when that’ll happen. Graham cautioned that it could be a few weeks before any collection is able to take place. Also needed to be worked out is a plan for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten registration. Graham said staff members are working to determine the best avenue, either by appointment or online. For those seeking field trip refunds, Graham said once everything settles down the division plans to issue those refunds. She also said the county is working to recover as much money as possible from the now-cancelled trip to Disney the high school band was supposed to take. For library books, she said keep those safe. They will be collected once it’s safe to do so. Anyone needing more reading material for a student should contact their child’s school.

For now, next year’s calendar will stay the same and the Madison Primary School renovation project is expected to begin June 1 as scheduled. The school division’s food program, which is currently supplying seven breakfasts and seven lunches for children ages 2-18, will continue. Families should contact Laura Burbridge at 948-3780 by 3 p.m. Thursday for pick-up the following Tuesday. Families who register one week will automatically be registered each subsequent week.

“That’s the thing I’m most proud about is we’re able to supply meals,” Greene said.

The school division has created a website with links to a variety of COVID-19 related resources including learning resources, technology resources, food access information and virus-related frequently asked questions and updates. The site can be accessed at https://www2.madisonschools.k12.va.us/domain/215.

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