MILWAUKEE — Monday marked the first day of school for 30,000 Milwaukee students at 52 schools, who are a part of the ‘Early Start’ program. This year they kicked off the year virtually due to COVID-19 concerns.
It was a first day unlike any other for Milwaukee Public Schools. There were no parents dropping kids off and no bells ringing in the hallways. Instead, students began the new year learning remotely through Chromebooks, with their teachers working either from a classroom or from home.
Carmelita Biami is a teacher at Milwaukee School of Languages. If she could, she would prefer to teach her students in person.
“I really want to be there and I want to be able to like help them and support them, and it's kind of hard to do that virtually,” Biami said.
However, she feels this is the safer option right now.
As Biami was teaching her reading intervention class, she could see her students on a screen in little boxes. She tried to engage them by using a cartoon character of herself as a part of her lesson.
“It shows the kids that you know you're putting in a little bit more effort to ensure that they're learning,” Biami said.
Virtual education comes with its own set of challenges, but teacher, James Smith said he's spent time finding ways to overcome them. He even plans to send out postcards to connect with his students.
“I’ve been able to contemplate you know how to make the virtual and the real work together so that the students get the greatest experience possible,” Smith said.
To assist in the transition, parents and students can visit a walk-up window on the side of school buildings to pick up and drop off documents and get technical help with Chromebooks.
Connectivity was a problem in the spring, that resulted in the district losing 6,800 students by the year's end.
Superintendent Keith Posley said they're working hard to make sure this fall all students have what they need to attend classes.
“We are going to do our 110 percent due diligence to make sure that we are able to locate and get each one of our students actively engaged in the education process,” Posley said.
Though parents like Yolanda Everett said the day didn’t start as smoothly, as her son had difficulty logging onto his Chromebook.
MPS officials released the following statement about the technical problems some families had on the first day:
MPS is aware of the issues students and families were having in logging on to virtual learning. The district is doing everything possible to address these concerns. For support, families are encouraged to reach out directly to their school or to the MPS Technology Support Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 414-438-3400.
The rest of MPS students start school on Sept. 1.