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No in-person classes allowed under Milwaukee's Phase 4 order

Wisconsin student
Posted at 10:02 PM, Jul 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-17 23:11:25-04

MILWAUKEE — Schools in Milwaukee that originally planned on having in-person classes this fall might have to go virtual instead.

Under Milwaukee's Phase 4 order, in-person instruction for public and private K-12 schools, as well as higher education, is not permitted.

It's taking some administrators of private and charter schools by surprise.

"It just felt like we were kept in the dark," said Monica Van Aken, the Head of School for Milwaukee Montessori School.

Van Aken and leaders of other schools say they're confused.

The Milwaukee Health Department posted plans in early June that showed schools could reopen in the fall with size limits and protective measures.

On Friday, health officials said as long as Milwaukee remains in Phase 4, in-person classes are not allowed. Officials acknowledged they had been getting questions about this, and they say they will talk about it more in an upcoming webinar.

Van Aken says she doesn't think that's fair. She says kids have been coming to campus throughout the summer for camps, and they've followed strict social distancing guidelines.

"There are some schools, like ours, that have been practicing these things with children all summer. As I said, we’ve had over 100 kids in the building, and no one has gotten COVID-19," Van Aken said. "That should count for something."

Van Aken and other schools are trying to figure out their next steps as the start of the school year comes in a few weeks.

"You're just making some real dramatic changes with literally just a few weeks before school opens," said Jim Bender of School Choice Wisconsin. "And that makes it even more difficult. Some of these things are hard to accomplish when you have a great deal of time."

It's not just private and charter schools who are planning for some in-person class, but higher education as well. Several college and tech school presidents signed a letter from the Higher Education Regional Alliance addressed to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Van Aken hopes health officials can make changes to allow for some face-to-face instruction.

"Ultimately to close all schools, just lumping us together as if we all have the same complicated issues to consider, I think is, ultimately is not going to be helpful to lots of schools," Van Aken said.

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