MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Public Schools administrators presented a recommended timeline during a committee meeting Tuesday night for students to gradually return to in-person learning over the next few months.
According to the recommendation, students with disabilities who require in-person learning, as well as virtual instruction, would start face-to-face learning Feb. 8 at three school locations. Board members said this impacts about 300 students.
Then the recommendation states students in Pre-K through 2nd grade would begin in-person learning on April 12. Grades 3 through 8 would start on April 19, and grades 9 through 12 would begin April 26.
The recommendation states the administration will give an update on the phased-in plan in March.
MPS Superintendent Dr. Keith Posley said he hopes this would give staff enough time to get vaccinated if they choose.
"We have no control over how many doses come to the city or anything of that nature, so we are planning as if everything is going to go as decent and in order," Posley said.
The recommendation also addresses PPE, contact tracing, isolation rooms, and ventilation guidelines for MPS buildings. Dr. Posley said the timeline follows the Department of Public Instruction guidelines.
A survey of MPS parents showed out of nearly 24,000 responses, 39 percent reported they would prefer to continue with virtual learning. The survey showed 29 percent said they would send their children back to the classroom if public health guidance said it was safe, while 25 percent said they would return as soon as possible. Seven percent reported they would return when a vaccine is available.
School board members, administrators, parents, students and teachers discussed the plan for more than four hours Tuesday night. During the public comment session, many people said they want MPS to remain virtual, citing slow vaccine rollout and poor ventilation in some MPS schools.
"MTEA will not support educators being shoved into buildings in 13 days," said Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association President Amy Mizialko.
In an interview before the meeting, Mizialko stressed educators want to be back with their students but only when it is safe. An MTEA petition to keep MPS virtual had more than 3,700 signatures as of Tuesday.
"Our position as MTEA has and will continue to be, we will advocate for safe conditions for children to learn in and staff to work in," Mizialko said in an interview prior to the meeting.
Meanwhile, other parents said going back to school in April is too close to summer break. Some expressed concerns about equity, pointing out that other area school districts have returned to some level of face-to-face learning or athletics.
"When it comes to Black students, we find every reason not to give them the equal opportunity of education that they deserve," said MPS parent and activist Tory Lowe.
Some parents who expressed concerns about equity also suggested improving virtual learning models.
The Centers for Disease Control released the results of a study Tuesday about 17 rural schools in Wood County, Wisconsin. The study found 191 students and staff had contracted Covid-19 between August and November, and seven of those cases were linked to in-school spread.