MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Health Department announced Friday afternoon it has approved ten private schools to reopen this fall.
However, another 25 schools that submitted plans to the department are still waiting. MHD released a statement on the process.
"The Milwaukee Health Department is continuing to review COVID-19 safety plans for schools that are located in the City of Milwaukee and desire to have options aside from virtual. Plans are reviewed in the order that they are received and prioritized by the open date.”
The ten schools that have been approved are:
- Marquette University High School
- Wisconsin Lutheran
- Pius XI
- Yeshiva Elementary
- St. Marcus
- Divine Savior Holy Angels
- Milwaukee Montessori
- Cross Trainers Academy
- Seton Catholic Schools
- St. Sebastian
Friday, at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, incoming freshmen arriving for in-person orientation were greeted with chalk messages on the sidewalk outside of the school. They are one of the ten schools that have been approved for their reopening plan. So, this is the first time in five months students have been allowed inside the school due to the pandemic.
"I’m not going to lie, it’s been a stressful several weeks,” Principal Dan Quesnell said. “There is a lot on our plate, trying to get the school ready in a proper way under these conditions and to feel good about it for everyone.”
Quesnell says his staff has had a busy summer, coming up with a plan to accommodate their 720 students to have the ability to learn in person. The Classrooms have desks spaced out and even in the auditorium, painter’s tape signifies where students can sit to maintain social distance. The floors of the hallways have more of a resemblance to the streets outside, with dotted tape lining the center of hallways.
"We’re thinking driving,” Quesnell said. “Solid lines you don’t cross, dotted lines you can cross. Trying to create one-way traffic.”
These efforts are allowing DSHA to have a hybrid reopening. Half of the students will come to school, in-person, on Mondays and Tuesdays, with the other half at home, learning virtually. Wednesdays, everyone is at home learning virtually. Then, Thursdays and Fridays, they flip. The other half of the school will come in-person while the Monday/Tuesday group will learn from home. It’s a bit different, but students will get back some sort of normalcy.
“She’s very excited,” Dr. Lori Albright said about her daughter. “She’s not crazy about the masks. She’s getting a few pimples from them. However, she knows the importance of it.”
Albright is approaching the situation on two fronts; as a mother and a doctor. She is a pediatrician and helped in creating the school’s reopening plan.
But first and foremost, she’s a mother. She wouldn’t sign off on a plan if she didn’t feel it was the safest option for her daughter.
“If they’re following CDC recommendations for safety, I think there should be some reassurance,” Albright said. “I feel confident we’re going to have a successful re-entry into school. Everyone wants the successful reopening of schools so we can get back to the way things used to be.”
But not every school is so lucky. MHD says there are 25 other schools that have not yet been approved. One of which is Pathways High School.
"It’s really hard to be in limbo and do a good job planning for learning,” Kim Taylor, Director of Pathways High School said.
Taylor says they submitted their plan in late July, but still haven’t heard back. It can make it difficult for planning.
"Some schools are waiting and that’s causing so much anxiety for teachers,” Taylor said. “August 3rd, we made the decision to go virtual.”
Taylor says it was more important for them to stay conservative and make the decision to go virtual rather than wait for the Health Department’s decision.
“The planning for virtual versus hybrid versus complete in person is very different for teachers,” Taylor said. “I was very cognizant that our teachers needed time and ability and research to equip kids with best learning opportunities.”