Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee Public Schools Extends Virtual Instruction

But Health Commissioner says health department had no role in decision, expresses concern about impact.

By - Jan 7th, 2022 01:21 pm
Maryland Avenue Montessori School, 2418 N. Maryland Ave. Photo taken August 13, 2021 by Dave Reid.

Maryland Avenue Montessori School, 2418 N. Maryland Ave. Photo taken August 13, 2021 by Dave Reid.

Milwaukee Public Schools students won’t return to in-person instruction until at least Jan. 18.

The Board of School Directors, at the recommendation of Superintendent Keith P. Posley, voted 8-1 late Thursday to further delay the return to the classroom.

The superintendent previously delayed the district’s in-person return until at least Jan. 10 following the holiday break, but the full board met in a special meeting Thursday evening to consider extending the measure. In a statement, MPS cited staffing availability as a result of COVID-19 cases.

During previous periods of virtual instruction, teachers have worked either in-person or at home while students attended virtually.

MPS’ dashboard reports that 1,060 students and staff tested positive for COVID-19 in the past seven days. Since July, it reports nearly 4,700 students and staff have tested positive. It did not provide school-level data at the meeting.

Megan O’Halloran was the lone member to vote against the proposal. She argued for a school-by-school approach to virtual instructions. This school year the district had switched individual schools to virtual instruction when at least 3% of students or staff tested positive.

“I don’t think any of us thought that we would be having this discussion again,” said Posley during the meeting. “Unfortunately, based on the high COVID-19 numbers, we are seeing it, and we must take a look at our approach for a safe learning environment.”

As part of the board’s action it formally called on the city to institute a mask mandate. It did not update its isolation policies to reflect the federal guidance that asymptotic people need to only stay home for five days.

The move to virtual schooling is backed by the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA).

But on Friday morning, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson expressed concern about the policy.

Johnson, whose children attend MPS, said she understood the staffing concerns. “I also think our children need to be in schools,” she said. The commissioner, who said the Milwaukee Health Department wasn’t consulted on the policy, said there are negative impacts from having the children not in-person. “There is a significantly greater impact on children who are Black and Brown, which is predominately who MPS serves. I do have concerns.”

Heather Paradis, a consultant to the health department, attended the MPS meeting on the department’s behalf.

The district maintained its mask requirement and staff vaccine requirement.

“Everyone who surrounds our students, all the adults in the schools, must be vaccinated,” said Johnson in response to a question from Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic. “Vaccination is our way out of this.”

But both Johnson and Dimitrijevic expressed a need for more eligible children to be vaccinated as well. As of Wednesday, only 8% of eligible 5-to-11-year-olds are vaccinated.

“Eight percent of children, we really have to do better,” said the alderwoman.

Categories: Education, Health, Weekly

One thought on “Milwaukee Public Schools Extends Virtual Instruction”

  1. Ryan Cotic says:

    Do yourself a favor and get your kids out of this trainwreck of a school district. It is run for the benefit of its employees and they do not care about our struggling children of color. I repeat get your kids out of this failed experiment as soon as possible to save them!

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us