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MPS reopening plan on agenda for discussion in committee meeting Tuesday

Posted at 10:18 PM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 23:18:03-05

MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee Public Schools Board committee is scheduled to discuss the district's reopening plan Tuesday, according to the agenda.

Since the pandemic began, more than 77,000 MPS students haven't been back in the classroom. Instead, they've been learning virtually.

"It's affecting every family differently," said MPS parent Elysse Chay.

Chay enrolled her third-grader in a charter school outside the county for in-person learning, and her fifth-grader is learning virtually in MPS.

"One of us is usually brought to tears of frustration almost every day, from trying to show your work, from a math problem on a Google Doc, to getting on the live Zoom," Chay said. "Which I'm working from home too."

MPS is in Phase One of its reopening plan, which is entirely virtual. Phase Two is a hybrid learning model, and Phase Three is a return to face-to-face.

Some parents say they want MPS to share a more specific timeline of when they can expect hybrid or face-to-face models.

"We are in the exact same situation today as we were on March 12 last year," said MPS parent Christopher Sayrs. "We still don’t know when our kids are going to go back to school."

Thursday afternoon, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett suggested that a timeline from the school district would be helpful to schedule teachers to get vaccines before returning to the classroom.

"For MPS, since they haven’t set a date to start, I would love to be working with them so we could get to that date, and we can start getting their teachers vaccinated, so they can be safe and their students can be safe," Barrett said.

Several other area school districts have announced changes for the second semester. For instance, the School District of South Milwaukee announced plans to return to full in-person learning in February.

Chay said she's not comfortable sending kids back into class unless there are widespread vaccinations. Instead, she wants more options for virtual learning.

"I also don't expect schools to try to make an a la carte menu that works for every single family," Chay said.

The Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association is circulating a petition to keep schools virtual for at least the next few months. As of Thursday, the petition had more than 2,700 signatures.

"A vaccine is on the horizon, but unfortunately universal vaccination is a long way away, especially considering children 16 and under cannot get the vaccine until FDA trials are completed," the petition reads. "The only safe way forward is to remain virtual for the next couple months."

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