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School districts tap communities for insight on reopening

Posted at 7:58 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 21:04:16-04

School districts across Wisconsin face the daunting task of deciding how to reopen for the new school year. Many leaders are tapping into the community to come up with answers.

"Before the virus came out you can rest assured if you want to catch a cold your kids would bring it home to you. So I’m just kind of worried about how they would deal with that with this virus going on," said Kevin Jones, father of an upcoming first grader.

"Some days I’m like yeah back to school and other days you know I start listening to things and I’m like oh my gosh we cannot be in school," said Myra De La Paz, a mother of three school-aged children.

As parents grapple with the uncertainty of what school may look like this fall school districts are working to formulate plans and back up plans in the age of coronavirus.

"When I speak to my superintendents, I see the weight of the world on their shoulders," said Terri Phillips, Executive Director of Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance.

SWSA is made up of 31 districts in the region.

"Many of them have formed community teams. So they're bringing in not just educators, but also parents, sometimes high school kids, business leaders, public health departments to help them make their plans for reopening," said Phillips.

Phillips says the state's recent guidance for schools serves as another toolkit for district leaders who have to make the call on operations.

A TMJ4 News Facebook poll shows out of nearly 3,000 people, 75 percent think schools should reopen.

Schools scramble to plan for fall

Phillips says flexibility and communication across the community will be key in moving forward.

"We know this is not easy on our parents. And we also know there's an equity thing going on too. There are some parents who can work from home and some that cannot so trying to find the right balance and also trying to find the right balance of making sure that our kids are getting our quality education is going to be key," said Phillips.

Racine Unified School District is aiming for mid-July to finalize plans for fall.

Janell Decker, RUSD's Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction says the district is looking at three options after they consulted with community partners, health officials, teachers, and parents.

Those options include full-time face-to-face learning, going completely digital, or a mix of the two.

However, Decker says the fiscal aspect adds another challenging layer.

"So the scenarios that we put together really do depend on how we can repurpose staff and how we can reuse or retool things that we already have at our disposal," said Decker.

"We want to make sure that we're doing that the safest way possible. And the quickest way possible to so parents can make the proper arrangements."

On Wednesday, education leaders will testify before state lawmakers for an informational hearing on reopening schools.

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