KENOSHA — Heated moments over in-person and virtual learning erupted during a Kenosha Unified School Board meeting on Tuesday.
This comes after seven schools moved to virtual due to 276 teacher absences on Monday. A notice went out to families on Sunday sending parents scrambling to adjust.
The Kenosha Education Association president also spoke publicly for the first time since the surge in absences.
The meeting started with a student ambassador condemning the teacher absences.
"This sick out not only took away from my fellow students and the ability to learn in person but it also created a feeling of mistrust," said student Cameron Jester.
During public comment parents and teachers made their case for in-person versus virtual learning.
"It hurt my heart when my son came to me today to say mom if I have to stay virtual I’m going to fail," said one mother whose son attends Tremper High school. Tremper is one of the seven schools that moved to virtual this week.
"I want students in front of me but it’s just not safe," said a teacher from Harborside Academy, another school that went virtual.
The KEA president held a sign through most of the meeting that said "1 student 1 teacher 1 funeral is too many."
"Rather than see the same support and encouragement as other essential workers in our community we have been blamed for nearly every single thing that has gone wrong throughout this global health crisis," said Tanya Kitts-Lewinski, Preside of the KEA.
As Kitts-Lewinski spoke past her time limit people in the room shouted for her to stop while others urged her to continue.
Eventually, another woman who spoke in support of in-person learning pulled the microphone away from Kitts-Lewinski.
There were outbursts throughout public comment and some people were removed.
The board president acknowledged the strong emotions and urged people to be respectful.
"We knew we'd have some setbacks and we prepared for that as best we could. I certainly hope that we can remain open for in-person learning so long as we can be safer," said Tom Duncan, KUSD School Board President.
Earlier in the day, a district spokesperson said of the 276 absences, 151 were pre-approved with a valid reason such as FMLA, jury duty, and bereavement. One hundred and fifteen were sick days that were since researched. Of those 17 reported COVID like symptoms and 83 reported other reasons such as doctor's appointments, sick child, etc.
The district added the teacher absence rate returned to normal on Tuesday, but the seven schools that moved to virtual will remain that way for the week.
On Monday, KUSD reported 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases including 3 staff members and 7 students.