MILWAUKEE — As Wisconsin sets new records for coronavirus cases, teachers' unions demand state health officials move all schools in the state to full virtual instruction.
"We’re here this afternoon calling on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to do their job and protect Wisconsinites, protect our students, protect our educators, protect our families. Wisconsin has reached out of control and exponential spread," said Amy Mizialko, Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association President.
During a press conference in Madison on Wednesday, teachers' unions from Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, Green Bay and Madison called on DHS to move all schools to a virtual format with required gating criteria and reopening plans regulated by state health experts.
Mizialko cited recent news including parents willfully sending COVID-19 positive kids to school in Ozaukee and Washington counties.
While Milwaukee Public Schools remain in a remote learning model - other districts, private schools and colleges have returned to in-person instruction.
"We cannot rely on individuals to make good decisions in a pandemic. It requires a systemic response," said Mizialko.
Jim Bender, President of School Choice Wisconsin, countered that while the virus needs to be taken seriously decisions regarding how to conduct classes need to be made at the local level.
"COVID should be part of the conversation, but we can’t ignore the disruption to daily life that goes on if you push the button and everybody goes virtual. Again that’s impacting 1 million families in the state of Wisconsin. That has repercussions," said Bender.
During a media briefing on Tuesday, Governor Tony Evers seemed unlikely to issue a state order moving schools to virtual learning, saying some cases in schools are not the majority of what Wisconsin is seeing.
"School districts are doing a good job if it’s causing a significant interruption in the education they’re going virtual. I still support their ability, but people have to recognize this isn’t just about the schools we're operating under community spread here, and we can solve this with the tools we have in place," Governor Evers said.
Several Milwaukee area organizations are also joining the teachers' unions, including Voces de la Frontera, in the push to move all Wisconsin schools to virtual learning.