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Milwaukee Public Schools plan recommends students begin returning to in-person learning by mid April

Posted at 3:26 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 23:33:26-04

MILWAUKEE — If a proposal released Thursday is approved by the school board, students in Milwaukee Public Schools would begin returning to in-person learning by mid April.

The Roadmap to Readiness Update plan recommends in-person learning begin for Kindergarten through 2nd grade on April 12; 3rd grade through 8th grade to begin April 19; and 9th grade through 12th grade to begin April 26.

In the proposal, students would attend in-person classes four days a week, with one day remaining virtual, on Wednesday.

The Milwaukee Public Schools Board is set to vote on the Roadmap to Readiness Plan during a 5:30 p.m. meeting next Tuesday.

The plan outlines numerous safety protocols to limit the spread of the coronavirus: specific entry and exiting of school buses and pickups; protocols for limited sharing of supplies; principals acting as "COVID coordinators" reporting cases and supporting isolation rooms; and school district nurses assigned to each school to continue supporting contract tracing.

The plan also outlines criteria for closing a classroom due to an outbreak. One linked COVID-19 case in a classroom would result in that class transitioning to virtual learning for two weeks. The proposal also proposes surveillance testing and a "Safety Labor Management Committtee."

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Social distancing would be enforced "to the greatest extent possible" in all areas of the school. That includes cafeterias, gyms, libraries and recesses.

Capacity in school buses will also be limited, with assigned seating, required masks and other safety precautions, according to the plan.

Breakfast will be served in the 'grab and go' style, and lunch will be served daily in cafeterias for students attending in-person classes. Students attending virtual classes will be able to pre-order meals for pickup.

Under the plan, MPS says it is following CDC guidance for better ventilation, and it is adding Portable HEPA filtration units to all classrooms.

The plan states all staff are expected to return to in-person work March 29.

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Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association President Amy Mizialko says that's too soon, as some teachers won't be fully immune by then.

"Any staff return in March can’t happen," Mizialko said. "That’s not a safe return, that’s not a return of any staff person being fully inoculated against the virus."

Mizialko said she doesn't have data on how many teachers have been vaccinated. She said the plan leaves her with a lot of questions, many surrounding details with busing and special education.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the city has worked closely with MPS administrators to make sure every teacher and staff member who wants a shot is getting one.

"We’re extremely proud of that partnership, because we did feel it was important to give them that opportunity, to get that vaccination, and we have been successful in doing that," Barrett said in a media call Thursday afternoon.

Families in the school district will be surveyed on their thoughts starting March 26.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended schools fully return to in-person teaching, as long as the community has less than an 8 percent positivity rate.

The City of Milwaukee's COVID-19 dashboard reports a percent positivity of 3.2 percent.

Students with disabilities began returning to in-person learning in early February, impacting about 300 students.

The plan that allowed for those students to return to class also outlined a proposal for all students to return to in-person learning by mid April.

A survey of MPS parents earlier this year showed out of nearly 24,000 responses, 39 percent reported they would prefer to continue with virtual learning, 29 percent said they would return their children if public health guidance said it was safe, while the remainder said they would either return their students as soon as possible or when a vaccine is available.

You can watch Tuesday's school board meeting here.

The full plan is embedded below:

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