Additional asynchronous learning starts Monday for MMSD students

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Madison Metropolitan School District students start making up for lost time through asynchronous learning on Monday and some parents wish the district would have handled the situation differently.

“Asynchronous” means not in-sync or independent. Students will complete extra hours virtually on their own time, rather than together.

In a letter to families, the district explained the decision is due to a three-day learning pause in January. Students were meant to return from winter break on January 3, but that break was extended. Students returned virtually on January 6 and in-person on January 10.

Parent Jen Talbot said she is frustrated that her 11-year-old son’s schedule could be disrupted by asynchronous learning and that it could prevent him from going to extracurriculars like Taekwondo.

”I know that they’re trying their best, but I think this was a lazy cop out to be honest,” Talbot said. ”It’s like here, just throw them a few extra assignments so we can meet this deadline or this goal and it’s really not going to provide the same as having a student in class.”

She would have preferred three extra school days tacked on at the end of the year.

“It wouldn’t have done anything to really change our schedule,” she said. “And it would’ve been more beneficial. I think they learn better in class instruction than just given assignments and I think they kind of proved that to be the case when the pandemic first hit.”

MMSD executive director of communications Tim LeMonds said extending the school year would negatively impact student and staff mental health.

”We wanted to avoid having to do that to our students and we felt that this was just a better option,” LeMonds said.

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

LeMonds said it’s the best way to meet the requirement without burning out staff and students after a stressful year.

”We can’t lose sight of why we took that pause,” he said. “That was to be able to stay open. The alternative would’ve been shutting our schools down and we know that’s not good for anybody.”

The pause was due to a COVID-19 spike in the community. Public Health Madison and Dane County was recording the spread of the Omicron variant at that time. The seven day rolling average of new cases reached a high of nearly 11,500 positive cases the week students returned.

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