Concerns over education gap with virtual learning when Milwaukee Public Schools reopen

Posted at 7:29 PM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 20:29:11-04

Milwaukee Public Schools’ reopening planhas parents and students asking a lot of questions, including what will make this attempt at virtual learning more successful than the last one.

High schooler, Courtney Vals-Steele doesn’t like going to school online. She said it’s just not the same as being in a classroom with a teacher.

“It's easy for me to just call their name and be like, ‘can you help me like walk me through it?’ But virtual learning is hard,” she said.

Her dad, Willie, said he was the same way in school, and needed that hands-on approach to learning.

“It's like somebody telling you how to drive a car, but until you get in the car you won't know until you actually have that experience,” Willie said.

Courtney, Willie, and other parents enrolled for the next academic year right from their cars Tuesday morning, a new method as Milwaukee Public Schools try to work through the COVID-19 pandemic, a task Superintendent Keith Posley doesn’t take lightly.

“We are going to do everything that we possibly can in the midst of this pandemic…to make sure that students receive a quality, wholesome education in the Milwaukee Public Schools,” Superintendent Posley said.

MPS hopes to start the new school year with all students learning virtually at home, not inside school buildings. Superintendent Posley said things will run smoother than they did in the spring.

“This was a growth process. We have lessons learned that we have worked on all summer long,” Superintendent Posley said.

Steve Gerner is Concordia University's Dean of Students and a professor of education. He said students going from virtual learning to a long break and then back to more virtual learning can lead to problems.

“What's going to happen is there's a huge gap there right now in learning and education,” Gerner said.

Gerner said the best place for students when it comes to their education, is in the classroom with a teacher.

“When you’re in a classroom with the teacher, with this teacher that you love, there’s a motivation factor,” Gerner said.

To do this virtually, he said the district will have to find innovative ways to engage with students and their families.

President of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association Amy Mizialko said they’re working to do just that.

“It's a heavyweight and burden to know the challenge ahead in terms of how do we forge those relationships with students and families and how do we develop that classroom community in a completely different way,” Mizialko said.

Everyone will have to work together when schools start back up, but parents like Willie look forward to the day he can take his daughter to school in person once again.

“I think right now it's probably the safest way to do it, but hopefully if everybody follows what they're supposed to do, this thing will drop and things will get back to normal,” Willie said.

The plan to reopen has three phases. It starts with all students learning virtually at home, not inside school buildings. During this time, district officials will monitor the pandemic to see if they can move onto phase two, which is a mix of in-school and online learning. In phase three all students would go back to school.

The school board will vote on the plan for the district’s nearly 80,000 students this Thursday at a public meeting.

The public can give live testimony during Thursday’s meeting. Community members that wish to speak must register in advance to receive a participation code to enter the meeting. The deadline to register is 3:00 P.M. on July 16, 2020.

To register to participate by dial-in, call 414-475-8200 and follow the instructions. To register to participate via email, visit the Boardcast page of the MPS website to send an email request.

Written comments may be submitted to the Office of Board Governance by mail, to 5225 W. Vliet Street, Milwaukee, 53221; by email, to; or by fax, to 414-475-8071. Written comments received before 3:00 P.M. on July 16, 2020, will be forwarded to the Committee for its consideration.

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MPS plan to reopen by TODAY'S TMJ4 on Scribd

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