USM Reopening Plan Overview

University School of Milwaukee published the initial version of its 2020-21 reopening plan on Wednesday, July 22, and held a virtual town hall meeting to address questions about the plan on Wednesday, Aug. 5. (You can view a recording of the town hall meeting.) The school received more than 100 questions about the plan between those dates, and another nearly 200 questions were asked during the town hall meeting.

USM has updated the plan document (revised information is highlighted in yellow in the document) and added additional information to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) below. As more details and information become available, we will continue to update both the FAQs and reopening plan document, and communicate those updates to parents.

Additional questions about the reopening plan can be submitted via the form at the bottom of this page.

Learning Mode Decision (On-campus or distance learning)

  • We plan to reopen campus and offer on-campus classes for all students starting Tuesday, Sept. 1.
  • Families that want or need their children to learn online will have an option for a synchronous (real-time) online experience using new, enhanced technology.
The USM campus reopened to students on Tuesday, Sept. 1. The school understands that families want (and in some cases, need) flexibility throughout this school year, which is why families are offered a synchronous (real-time) distance learning opportunity for students, in which they will join their classmates in on-campus classrooms via an enhanced online experience (using Google Meet or Zoom, depending on the grade level) and USM’s new Meeting Owl technology.
USM will send a brief, required survey to the families of all students at the end of each month. In that survey, families are expected to indicate whether or not each enrolled child will spend the following month in his or her on-campus classrooms or use distance learning. (This decision can be made independently for each child in a family.) The school is asking families to think about this decision in one-month (or longer) increments, to assist teachers in lesson planning and classroom management—meaning, the survey selection for each child should indicate your plans for the following month's learning for that child. However, the school understands that flexibility will be needed, and also desired, depending on a family’s specific situation throughout the school year.
USM asks that, to the best of your ability, you follow the selection made for each child each month, but respects that a family’s specific situation may change at any time, and is committed to providing all families with reasonable flexibility. If your child would need to isolate (due to a positive COVID-19 test) or quarantine (due to COVID-19 symptoms, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive diagnosis), the school would obviously allow an immediate mid-month switch from on-campus to online learning. All other requests to change a child’s learning option mid-month would be handled on a case-by-case basis, and would start with a phone call to the school’s nurse clinic (for health-related requests) or the child’s division office (for all other requests). USM would continue to evaluate this process on a regular basis and make changes to it as needed.
No; the reopening plan USM has created is not intended to be used as an intentional hybrid learning model by families. Additionally, it is not intended to be used by families as a way to move back and forth between on-campus and distance learning for things such as family vacations, parent work schedules, unique family situations, etc.
Yes; there will be limitations to extent of our distance learning experience for students. Faculty will do their best to ensure distance learners remain active and involved in the classroom, but we do not offer a separate schedule for distance learners with dedicated teachers in charge of distance learning. Specific activities, such as labs, tests, art classes, and physical education, will be handled by individual faculty in the most equitable manner possible, depending on the specific class, activity, and situation. Students will stay with their same class cohorts even if they move to the distance learning option.
Individual classes have a maximum number of students, and this number depends on the size of the specific classroom for each class. In-person and distance learning students are counted the same in determining that class size, as it is possible that the number of each will ebb and flow from month to month. Therefore, no class size would be over the maximum in the event that all students in that particular class happened to be learning in person at the same time.
No; there will not be any distinction between on-campus and distance learning on students’ report cards or transcripts.
No; USM has invested heavily to enhance the distance learning experience, and families who choose the distance learning option for their child are choosing the alternative to the preferred and recommended option, so no discounts or refunds to tuition or other costs will be provided. The school has fixed costs that do not change when a family makes use of the alternative distance learning option. If USM was required to, or would make the decision to, move all students to distance learning for some period of time, the school would reevaluate its thinking on this topic at that time.

Health and Safety

  • Face masks will be required for all students in junior kindergarten through 12th grade, and all adults, and recommended for prekindergarten students.
  • Daily health screenings will be required for all students, faculty, and staff, and for any visitors to campus.
  • New state-of-the-art filtration technology is being added to all air handler systems on campus to help kill pathogens and improve air quality.
  • Additional topics in this category’s FAQ include: physical distancing; hand washing and sanitizing; mental health and well-being; facilities; and COVID-19 symptoms, testing, and isolation/quarantine.

Daily Health Screenings

Parents or caregivers must conduct a screening, which includes taking the child’s temperature at home prior to boarding a bus or arriving at school, each school day, using the PikMyKid app. Faculty and staff also use an online screening tool prior to their arrival at school each day and may be required to stay home if there is a concern that they may have COVID-19. On-campus temperature checks of students, faculty, and staff will not be taken prior to those individuals being allowed into the building.
Faculty and other staff check student temperatures at least one additional time during each school day using no-touch infrared thermometers, in case a child’s temperature rises during the school day, or in case any medications taken by the child before arrival were masking a fever.

Face Coverings

For the 2020-21 school year, masks (cloth or surgical) will be required for all adults (including all visitors), and for all students in junior kindergarten through 12th grade. A clean or new disposable mask is required each school day. Prekindergarten students are strongly encouraged to wear masks as well, although we understand it may be difficult for some children in this grade to be able to do so consistently.
Face masks should be any solid color or pattern material, and should not include any letters, numbers, logos, or symbols, similar to other dress code requirements. Small, discrete manufacturer logos or marks on masks will be acceptable.
Face shields may be worn in addition to masks, but may not take the place of masks, as the specific research around the effectiveness of face shields is inconclusive at this time. Following spring break, gaiter-type face coverings will no longer be allowed during the school day.
Students have been shown the proper way to take off and put on masks, including for lunch and mask-break times. Children are welcome to bring an extra mask with them each day, or keep a bagged supply of their own extra masks at school. USM also has a large supply of surgical masks that will be provided to students as needed, to use for the remainder of the day.
USM knows that it is difficult, if not impossible, to expect all students, faculty, and staff to wear a face mask for the entire school day. Individuals will be able to remove masks during lunch, when they will be appropriately physically distanced from one another. Other opportunities for mask breaks will vary by age groups, but some examples include outdoors, when physical distancing recommendations can be followed.
The school is committed to ensuring that all students, faculty, staff, and visitors follow the rules in place for the wearing of face masks. All individuals will be educated about the reasons for wearing masks as well as the specific rules, including those around mask breaks. We expect all individuals in our community to follow the mask policy, and any infractions will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Physical Distancing

In addition to signage indicating things such as hallway paths and one-way stairways, all students, faculty, and staff have received guidance on how to properly maintain appropriate physical distancing. Classrooms have been set up following physical distancing recommendations, and community spaces are only used if appropriate physical distancing can be maintained for the size of the class or group using the space.

Hand Washing and Sanitizing

Yes; all students, as well as all faculty and staff, have been trained on proper hand washing and sanitizing practices, and hand washing continues to be emphasized as a primary method of prevention. Hand washing and/or sanitizing is required throughout the day, including before and after all classes and visits to the restroom, and additional time will be provided for this to occur. The school has hand sanitizer stations throughout the building and outdoors, and all individuals are encouraged to use these on a regular basis. All hand sanitizers used by the school have been and will continue to be checked to ensure no recalled products are in use.
Yes; USM continues to educate all students, faculty, and staff on the use of a product called Zoono, which can be applied to hands at the start of every school day. Zoono is an advanced hand and surface sanitizer that USM has purchased. One application to hands lasts for up to 24 hours and protects against bacteria and viruses by rupturing their cells on contact. It is colorless, odorless, environmentally safe, and completely safe and gentle. Its protection is not affected by additional hand washing and sanitizing with hand sanitizer throughout the day.

Mental Health and Well-being

The school is aware that this continues to be a difficult time for students and their families. Faculty and staff have been informed and trained on things to watch for regarding student mental health and emotional well-being. School counselors and USM’s behavioral health team have also received additional training, and more will occur, both for those individuals and faculty and other staff. Regular conversations with students about self-care also take place. The school is also working to ensure support is in place for staff and especially faculty—who will be going above and beyond this year in support of their students—and their families, as needed.


Classrooms, and all common areas, are cleaned daily with CDC-recommended, EPA-certified, cleaning products. Our custodial team and school nurses partnered with an outside consultant to develop a cleaning plan that meets or exceeds all recommendations for all indoor and outdoor spaces. Common outdoor spaces (playground equipment, athletic areas, etc.) are also cleaned and sanitized daily. Classrooms and common areas also undergo a regular deep cleaning.
Where necessary, classrooms and other common areas have plexiglass dividers in place, and these are also regularly cleaned and sanitized.
Yes; the school made a major investment in improving the air quality, and the HVAC systems in all campus buildings underwent significant upgrades, with state-of-the-art bipolar ionization technology from Global Plasma Solutions installed on all air handler systems. With this technology, all airborne particles are reduced, odors are neutralized, energy is saved, and more pathogens, including bacteria, mold spores, and viruses, are killed. The system is optimized to bring in as much fresh air as possible, and is balanced as guided by building codes, and the weather. The school’s air quality and HVAC systems have always met or exceeded government standards.

COVID-19 Symptoms, Testing, and Isolation/Quarantine

You should plan to keep your child at home for COVID-19 symptoms, until cleared by his/her healthcare provider, based on the following guidance:

Does your child have one of the following symptoms?
    Cough (new or worsening)
    Chills/shivering or temperature of 100.0F or higher
    Diarrhea or vomiting
    New loss of taste or smell
Does the student have two or more of the following symptoms?
    Muscle or body aches
    Sore throat
    Runny nose/congestion
    Unusual fatigue
If your child has any of the following symptoms, call EMS or 911 immediately:
    Inability to wake or stay awake
    New confusion
    Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
If your child has one or more of these symptoms, you should also contact his/her healthcare provider immediately. Your child may also be required to take a COVID-19 test, and receive a negative result, before returning to campus.
USM strongly encourages all families to continue to practice appropriate physical distancing and wear face masks outside the home and when around others, and families are welcome to have their children (and others in the household) tested regularly or as needed. USM requires all students, faculty, and staff (other students using distance learning, and any individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past three months) to be tested following USM's extended breaks (Thanksgiving break, winter break, spring break) prior to returning to campus. This testing (rapid antigen and, if necessary, PCR tests) is conducted on campus at no charge to families.
Any individual who displays COVID-19 symptoms or has received a positive COVID-19 test result is expected to isolate according to Wisconsin Department of Health Services guidelines (currently 10 days). Any individual who has been in high-risk contact (currently defined as 6-feet physical distancing or less, for 15 or more cumulative minutes in any 24-hour period) with another individual who has received a positive COVID-19 test result is expected to quarantine according to Wisconsin Department of Health Services guidelines (7- and 10-day options; see Protocols section on this site for more information). Although students are not able to be on campus for classes during an isolation or quarantine period, they would be able to continue through distance learning.
Any individual experiencing or showing COVID-19 symptoms would be evaluated in the USM Nurse Clinic. Depending on the evaluation, the individual may then be isolated in a dedicated area of the school, with supervision, until a parent or caregiver is able to pick the child up at school.
USM continues to follow the Wisconsin Department of Health Services guidelines, which suggest a 10-day isolation or 7–10-day quarantine period that must be met before an individual will be allowed to return to on-campus classes (or work, for faculty and staff). Please see the Protocols section on this site for more details about quarantine requirements. All student test results (positive or negative) should be submitted to for the school's records.
Any positive test for COVID-19 in the school community would prompt an immediate outreach to the North Shore Health Department for sharing and guidance. It is also possible that the NSHD (or another health department, depending on a family’s home address) may notify the school of a positive test result of a USM student. Depending on the situation, it could be that an entire class may need to quarantine (including the teacher), or a smaller group of students and teachers might need to quarantine. School nurses would perform contact tracing for any school situations, and the North Shore Health Department would do so for anyone outside of the school community. Following the contact tracing, USM would notify the families of any impacted students, although, due to privacy policies, the school does not disclose any specific details of individuals with positive test results.


  • Drop-off and pick-up procedures for all students will be modified, and USM and public school district busing procedures will also be modified.
  • Before-school care will not be offered for the 2020-21 school year, and after-school care will require advance sign-up for Preschool, Lower School, and Middle School students. All after-school enrichment classes will be suspended through at least winter break.

Drop-off and Pick-up Procedures

In most cases, no; due to health recommendations, parents or caregivers are not allowed to enter the building without an appointment. Families should plan to schedule an appointment for meetings with faculty, staff, or administrators.
The PikMyKid app is used by a parent or caregiver for the required daily health screening for their child prior to boarding a bus or arriving at school. The same app will then be used to alert the school when a parent or caregiver has arrived for pick up of that child at the end of the school day, and the child is then dismissed to head to the exit and vehicle, where additional staff confirm the person/vehicle with whom the child will leave.


Yes; USM busing is offered to those families who signed up for it and confirmed that they would still use it for their child.
All USM buses operate at reduced capacity so that there are fewer passengers, in order to maintain physical distancing recommendations. Additionally, the school requires an "every other row" policy to ensure students are well-spaced throughout the bus. For bus routes that are very busy, USM added additional buses to ensure that all students can be transported in a safe and healthy manner.
Yes; all students and drivers are required to wear masks at all times when on USM buses.
All USM buses are cleaned and sanitized between each trip. Bus drivers have been trained on effective cleaning measures to ensure proper cleaning, even when the bus is away from campus. The school also has hand sanitizer on all buses for students to use when boarding and exiting the buses.

Before- and After-school Care

Before-school programming was suspended for this school year and families are asked to follow division drop-off procedures for children. After-school programming, in grade-level cohorts (not including Upper School), is offered via monthly registration, although all families are strongly encouraged to pick up their children at the end of the school day if possible. All after-school program enrichment classes have been suspended for this school year.

School-day Experience

  • Student schedules will change little, if at all, from previous years, and start and end times for each division will also remain the same.
  • The dress code will be in place in all divisions, including for distance learning students, although it will be relaxed somewhat for this school year.
  • The lunch experience will be modified and will make use of multiple spaces around campus to ensure physical distancing recommendations are being met.
  • Additional categories in this topic’s FAQ include: lockers and cubbies; school store; and athletics.

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.

Dress Code

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.

School Store

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.


Spring sports seasons will begin in mid-April, with some teams having coach contact day practices beginning in early March. These are communicated by the coaches to team members.
Following USM's spring break, only on-campus learners will be permitted to participate in on-campus activities, including athletic practices and competitions. This is a change from previous sports seasons.
During the spring sports season, Middle School athletics offers boys and girls lacrosse (7th/8th grades), girls soccer (all grades), tennis (7th/8th grades), and track and field (all grades). Kickball is also offered to students in all grades as an intramural sport.
USM currently allows up to six guests per rostered player and coach for both the home and away teams. Face coverings will be required for all guests. Guest names are submitted in advance to the teams and a check-in process is used at games.
Locker rooms are available for changing areas for after-school Upper School athletics, but not for overnight storage of items. Each team's head coach has individual COVID-19 protocol plans for their sport which include mask and physical distancing guidelines, and they will share these with their teams.

On-campus/Distance Learning Decision Tree

This decision tree provides a basic road map for your family to better understand your options for typical on-campus learning and distance learning.

We look forward to starting classes as scheduled this school year on Tuesday, Sept. 1 with as few disruptions to typical learning as possible.

Although safe, on-campus learning is our primary goal, we will offer flexible options for families who are not yet ready for their child to return to campus, or for situations where a child may need to isolate or quarantine for an extended period of time.

We are also continuing to actively prepare additional scenarios in the event that it is determined that typical on-campus learning is not safe, or distance learning again becomes mandated by state and/or local governments.

Decision tree for determining on-campus or USM@HOME distance learning.

Questions or Comments

Do you have additional questions or comments regarding the school’s reopening plan? If so, please complete the form below to submit these. We will attempt to reply to all questions as soon as possible, either through the FAQs or via direct response, but please be patient as there are some topics for which we are awaiting further guidance or information.