MADISON — Lawmakers had a chance to ask groups of educators about what returning to school safely might look like amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The State Assembly's Committee on Education met with eight groups of educators during a socially-distanced meeting on Wednesday.
The groups that testified before lawmakers were The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, The Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance, The Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, The Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools. The Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance, The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, School Choice Wisconsin and The Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
A large chunk of the conversation focused on an 87-page document called "Education Forward," which was drafted by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). The document offers extensive guidance on re-opening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"The virus that causes COVID-19 will remain in circulation for the foreseeable future. Students, staff and their families remain susceptible. So when we talk about the return to school, we are really meaning returning to school as safely as possible," said, Louise Wilson, School Nurse Health Services Consultant for DPI.
As education leaders look ahead to the 2020-2021 school year, there are still a lot of unknowns. One thing that is known is that school will likely look very different throughout the entire State of Wisconsin.
Instructors, administrators, and athletic and health leaders all testified and answered questions from the committee of lawmakers.
Leaders discussed everything from the future of fall sports to the different types of instruction that may be necessary as COVID-19 continues to impact communities.
Across the board, questions focused on things like attendance taking, safe transportation, and the challenges that could exist when it comes to feeding students safely if and when they return to school.
Another big question has been: How can learning during the era of COVID-19 be more organized than it was when the pandemic first hit at the end of the previous school year?
The new "Education Forward" guidance seeks to help answer all of those types of questions.
Jennifer Kammerud, Senior Policy Advisor DPI, said schools must be prepared to implement alternative scenarios when looking ahead at plans to return to class.
Ultimately, despite today's meeting and the guidance that will be released in the days ahead, it will be up to each individual school district to make a final decision on how to return to school safely this Fall.