Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

What To Expect with MPS Reopening

Answers to questions about testing, childcare and sick leave for teachers.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Jul 23rd, 2020 01:27 pm
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MPS will continue its “Stop, Grab, and Go” lunch program for at least 30 school days as classes remain virtual. Photo by Adam Carr/NNS.

MPS will continue its “Stop, Grab, and Go” lunch program for at least 30 school days as classes remain virtual. Photo by Adam Carr/NNS.

After the school board approved MPS’ reopening plan for the fall last week, we asked if you had any questions.

Then we followed up MPS, the Department of Public Instruction, or DPI, and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association to get you answers.

Will there be standardized testing?

Yes, for now. There are several standardized tests MPS students take, some of which MPS can decide to end unilaterally. Tests such as STAR, which the district uses to measure academic progress, are being re-evaluated as long as learning is completely virtual.

However, many standardized tests that MPS students take are required by state law and are out of the district’s control. Department of Public Instruction officials said although these tests were canceled at the end of last school year, both federal and state laws require they be administered this year.

“The purpose of the standardized tests is to identify what students know and can do in core academic areas,” DPI communication specialist Chris Bucher said. “We are exploring a variety of options to help districts successfully administer the assessments.”

Is the third Friday still how state funding is calculated? Will MPS be at a disadvantage compared to in-person schools?

Bucher says the third Friday will still be the official count of each school’s attendance for the 2020-’21 school year. State funding will then be distributed to districts according to this count, as usual.

“Our intent is that every district and school providing instruction will be able to count their students on the third Friday of September,” Bucher said. “We are preparing information on how that will work for remote and blended instruction.”

It is unclear what effect this will have on Milwaukee schools’ attendance figures and the funding it receives from the state. At last week’s board meeting, several parents expressed frustration with online learning and threatened to transfer out of MPS should the district begin the school year with no in-class instruction.

Is there paid teacher sick leave for a minimum of two weeks?

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, or MTEA,  the union representing MPS teachers, says that under federal law, school districts are required to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to employees if they are quarantined or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. These protections will expire on Dec. 31. The MTEA says it will seek an extension to these protections for the whole school year.

How is MPS thinking about/planning for an increased need for affordable child care?

Once in-person classes resume, MPS says it will continue providing its after-school services, such as its Community Learning Centers. MPS also is considering an increase in staffing in order to reduce staff to student ratios.

MPS will be starting the year virtually but is planning to phase into full in-class instruction when health officials say it can. Photo by Adam Carr/NNS.

MPS will be starting the year virtually but is planning to phase into full in-class instruction when health officials say it can. Photo by Adam Carr/NNS.

How will they test when a student or teacher is sick?

Once schools reopen, MPS’ reopening plan outlines a list of risk-mitigation measures the district will be taking. Among these measures are isolating symptomatic students, excluding employees who show symptoms of COVID-19 from school buildings, and protections for students “who are at a higher risk for severe illness.”

Neither MPS’ reopening plan nor district spokespeople mentioned on-site testing for COVID-19 at any MPS site.

Are grief specialized therapists hired for the students?

In its reopening plan, MPS did highlight the need for “educational materials on loss and grief,” though the hiring of therapists specializing in grief and loss is not explicitly budgeted for.

MPS will continue to retain school counselors on its payroll through the 2020-’21 school year. The district says that these counselors can assist with social and emotional issues, including grief, or can point students in the direction to get the specialized help they need.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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