MERTON, Wis. — The Merton Community School District is facing a massive outbreak in COVID-19 cases.
Some parents are asking for the district to go virtual or close early for the Christmas holiday. Others want to stick to the plan and stay open. School board leaders recently decided in a special board meeting that no changes would happen and things would remain as they called it, “status quo.”
The Merton Schools superintendent Ronald Russ says out of the school district's approximately 850 students, 200 stayed home Tuesday.
As of now, the Merton Schools are seeing 10 percent of the people in their schools test positive for COVID-19.
“We are the highest school in Waukesha County," said Merton School Board vice president Katie Welnetz.
The school board held a special meeting Wednesday afternoon to decide if anything needed to change and parents were split.
“We shouldn’t be offering virtual learning. Parents knew from August that we weren’t going to be doing many things. We shouldn’t be saying we are going to offer virtual temporarily (now that we have an outbreak),” said an unnamed parent during public comment.
“For the community as a whole, for this staff, I think it is only fair to try to mitigate this as much as possible, because what we are doing isn’t working,” said another unnamed parent during public comment.
The policies in Merton Schools include no special social distancing measures and masks are optional. On top of that, the district has no threshold on the number of COVID-19 cases that will close down a school. In Milwaukee Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, if three-percent of the people in a school building are COVID-19 positive, the school closes and classes go virtual.
In Merton, however, students can only get access to virtual learning with a positive COVID-19 test, either for the student or a family member.
“Any student who has an immediate family (member) who has a medical diagnoses, then if they prove that medical diagnosis, they have access to virtual within 24 hours,” said Russ.
The superintendent says if a parent is concerned about their children’s safety, they can stay home from school and they can get homework packets.
Children’s Wisconsin is also seeing an increase of COVID-19 patients. There are currently 15 children in the hospital with COVID-19, which is up from 11 children the week before. Officials also say 74 percent of their pediatric intensive care rooms are full.
As of Tuesday, Merton Schools have 57 COVID-19 positive cases in the primary school and five in the intermediate school.
Despite that, the school board voted not to change their policy.
“It is a parent choice,” said Russ.
The school board did not discuss any changes to its mitigation policy. There is another school board meeting coming up on Monday.