University School of Milwaukee made a concerted effort to try to minimize changes to the typical school-day experience for students and teachers, starting with the daily academic schedule, which still follows the regular eight-day letter calendar schedule for classes. Although the division-specific dress codes were left in place, including for distance learners, they were relaxed somewhat for students, faculty, and staff for the 2020–21 school year.
The lunch experience was also modified for all students, faculty, and staff with students, faculty, and staff choosing from various hot and cold items served a la carte by dining staff either in the Palermo Servery or delivered directly to classrooms for distribution. Assigned seats for lunch in various spaces around campus also help to ensure appropriate physical distancing remains in place during lunch. In addition, modifications were made to other school-day experience, such as student lockers and cubbies, study hall spaces, school store access, and more.
Teaching and Learning
Other than some minor tweaks, the student schedules look very much the same as they have in recent years.
No; USM is following the same start and end times for each division this year, which are listed here. Preschool: 8:15 a.m.–3:05 p.m. (half-day students are dismissed at 11:15 a.m.); Lower School: 8:15 a.m.–3:10 p.m.; Middle School: 8:10 a.m.–3:20 p.m.; Upper School: 8:10 a.m.–3:20 p.m.
Prior to the start of the school year, USM evaluated the square footage and specific layouts of all classrooms, as well as other spaces that might be used for teaching and learning activities, to ensure that recommended physical distancing could be achieved in all learning environments. Class sizes for this year account for all students assigned to that class, whether their families have chosen the in-person or distance learning option. Appropriate changes were made to Preschool, Lower School, and Middle School classrooms, and, in most cases, only minimal changes were needed to Upper School classrooms.
Fine arts classrooms are subject to physical distancing and other health measures, just like other classes and activities. This created some additional unique challenges for band, orchestra, choir, drama, and dance classes, although the school has found safe solutions to be able to allow this programming to continue this year.
Physical education classes continue to be safely offered in all divisions, although no students are currently changing into physical education gear for classes. Locker rooms are used for storage of other equipment by students, but locker room access is limited and supervised, with small groups of students with physically distanced lockers being allowed into locker rooms at the same time.
Shared educational spaces, such as the makerspaces (Lubar Center for Innovation and Exploration and Nerdvana), the Virginia Henes Young Theatre, and gymnasiums, are still being utilized, but with smaller capacities due to physical distancing recommendations and with additional cleaning and sanitizing.
All field trips and retreats scheduled or planned through winter break have been canceled or postponed. The school is still working to determine the feasibility of other experiential learning opportunities on a case-by-case basis, although most of these that were scheduled through at least winter break have been canceled or postponed for this year. The school is hopeful that the situation after winter break will allow for the rescheduling of some or all of the opportunities that may be missed in the first half of the school year.
Yes; some classes are held outside when the weather and curriculum allow for learning in a flexible environment. Learning outdoors can allow for additional physical distancing and fresh air, and may also allow students and teachers who are physically distanced to remove their masks, but it must be balanced to ensure that learning can continue in a productive manner.
USM has hired additional in-house substitute teachers who are available in the event that any number of our faculty need to isolate or quarantine. These substitutes, as well as other short- and long-term substitute teachers from outside the school, have been and continue to be trained on the health and safety protocols in the same manner as our full-time faculty to ensure that all students remain as safe as possible.
While the student dress code is still in place in all divisions, it has been relaxed somewhat for this school year, given the nature of the situation. Ties and blazers (for Middle School and Upper School students) and dress shoes (for all students) will be optional. The dress code for faculty and staff has also been relaxed somewhat. There may be some special days (student picture day, etc.) when students, faculty, and staff will be asked to wear full dress code attire.
Yes, students who are using distance learning while on-campus learning is being offered are expected to follow the relaxed dress code for this school year while participating in online (synchronous) activities with their classmates and teachers.
Yes; students in all grades are allowed to be out of dress code, in USM or Wildcats gear, for Wildcat Wednesdays on the first Wednesday of every month. Students using distance learning will also be strongly encouraged to participate in Wildcat Wednesdays from home. There will likely be other additional out-of-dress-code days announced throughout the year as well.
At this time, self-serve stations are not allowed due to cross-contamination concerns. However, the school is still providing a full lunch service with hot and cold choices.
Students in Preschool, Lower School, and Middle School are able to choose from a wide variety of hot and cold entrees and sides which are delivered to classrooms. In addition, Middle School students are able to visit the Palermo Hall servery in the Upper School on a rotating basis by grade level to select their lunch items. Upper School students also continue to use the Palermo Hall servery, selecting from various hot and cold entrees and sides, with other guidelines in place to ensure the health and safety of our community.
Students dine in various locations around school, including in classrooms, physically distanced dining rooms with fewer seats, and outdoor spaces when weather allows, depending on their grade levels. All spaces are cleaned and sanitized prior to each lunch period. Face masks are able to be removed by individuals while eating lunch. The goal is to be able to maintain as much of the USM dining experience as possible while following recommended physical distancing.
No; students are allowed to bring lunches from home due to allergy concerns. USM remains committed to maintaining an allergy aware campus, and the only way to achieve that is by providing all lunches for students, faculty, and staff.
Lockers and Cubbies
Preschool and Lower School students are continuing to use classroom cubbies. Middle School students use lockers for personal belongings, and access to lockers is managed and supervised to ensure recommended physical distancing. The Upper School is not using lockers for this school year, although any family with a child that might have a specific need for a locker should contact the Upper School office. Cubby and locker assignments and access times for all grade levels are staggered to ensure appropriate physical distancing among students.
The school store is open for up to four guests at a time. Parents or guardians who need to visit the school store are able to make an appointment and schedule their visit as well.