Private School Skirts Health Order, Moves Classes to ‘Tosa

Wisconsin Lutheran High School is sidestepping the City's health order, holding summer classes in Tosa.

By - Aug 1st, 2020 05:50 pm
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Wisconsin Lutheran High School protest. Photo by Ethan Duran.

Wisconsin Lutheran High School protest. Photo by Ethan Duran.

In order to skirt the City of Milwaukee’s health guidelines related to COVID-19, Wisconsin Lutheran High School is sending its summer academy students to a high school in Wauwatosa for in-person summer school classes.

The high school is in the City of Milwaukee, at 330 Glenview Ave. Rev. Dr. Kenneth Fisher, school president, said that summer classes were moved off-site to comply a health order from the Milwaukee Health Department that bars in-person classes.

Milwaukee entered Phase 4.1 of the Health Department’s Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely program on Friday night. According to a statement released July 17, schools inside the city are not permitted to hold in-person sessions until the city reaches Phase 5. But the Phase 4.1 order allows schools to reach 50 percent capacity if they submit and earn approval on a safety plan.

Wisconsin Lutheran High School’s summer program started on July 1, later than its usual start date.

[inarticled]Fisher said the same COVID-19 precautions being used at Wisconsin Lutheran High School were being used at Kingdom Prep Lutheran High School, 2520 N. Wauwatosa Ave. Those measures include temperature checks at the door, one-way hallways and frequent sanitizing.

Both schools are near the city’s winding border with Wauwatosa.

“The science didn’t change between Milwaukee and Wauwatosa,” said Fisher, “We want to respect the Health Department’s decisions. But if we can do it in Wauwatosa, why can’t we do it across the street in Milwaukee?”

Fisher said that the summer academy program was meant for struggling students after the lack of face-to-face instruction over the spring semester. “We made the effort to find a way to follow CDC guidelines with social distancing, hand cleaning and temperature checks so they could get what they deserve.”

Fisher said that the school wouldn’t consider moving classes out of Milwaukee for the fall semester.

Wisconsin Lutheran High School hasn’t spoken to the Milwaukee Health Department about moving students outside of the city for face-to-face classes. The principal said they would submit a plan for safety measures to the Health Department to comply with Phase 4.1 standards.

“We don’t know how it wouldn’t be okay if we’re operating outside of the city of Milwaukee, which many other schools are doing,” said Phil Leyrer, principal of Wisconsin Lutheran High School.

The private school is adamant about opening for in-person classes, and its faculty and administration persist that face-to-face classes are the most effective way to teach. Leyrer said that the school is prepared to continue classes virtually, but that students’ learning would suffer if they didn’t show up for classes in person.

“We’re asking to be allowed to deliver education face-to-face, simply because we believe that is clearly in the best interest of our students,” said Leyrer. “A complete high school experience goes beyond academics. That’s very difficult to replicate virtually.”

On Friday, July 17, Leyrer sent out an email calling Wisconsin Lutheran High School parents to action. He said the schools couldn’t reopen under the current phase and had no legal recourse. So, instead, they decided to apply public pressure.

Parents, students and faculty from Wisconsin Lutheran High School silently marched to Mayor Tom Barrett’s house on July 19. Protests were held by other private schools like Marquette University High School and Divine Savior Holy Angels High School at city buildings throughout the rest of the week.

The school conducted a poll of parents and found over 70 percent of respondents favored face-to-face instruction five days a week. Around 20 percent of respondents didn’t favor face-to-face classes. Approximately 75 percent of parents agreed that they were satisfied with the school’s COVID-19 mitigation techniques. Approximately 13 percent of respondents did not think the mitigation policies were enough.

Eric Lueck, a social studies teacher at the school, was one of the organizers of the march on the Barretts, house. In a letter, later posted to Instagram, he said, “There will be no sports seasons if we don’t have school. We may lose a big part of our international program if we don’t open school. We may lose our suburban students if we don’t open school.”

The school distanced itself from the remark. “We don’t ask our teachers to be official spokespeople for our schools,” said Fisher. “He was not speaking for our school at that point.”

Urban Milwaukee reached out to eight other private schools in Milwaukee, including Marquette University High School and Divine Savior Holy Angels High School. Five schools canceled their summer classes and the other three didn’t respond.

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Categories: Education, Health

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