3 MPS schools virtual due to COVID, calls for Milwaukee mask mandate

Two more Milwaukee Public Schools have transitioned to virtual learning, bringing the district's total to three after a spike in COVID-19 cases, and district leaders are calling for more help from City Hall.

The district's COVID-positive data really drives that decision. The school board's COVID-19 mitigation plan says that transition will occur when at least 3% of a school's population, students and staff, are COVID-positive.

On Thursday, Sept. 30, exactly four weeks after the school year began, MPS Superintendent Keith Posley said he can't predict if other schools will do the same while calling for stronger mitigation outside Milwaukee Public Schools.

"There is a surge in the city of Milwaukee, and we are seeing the results of that surge," said Posley.

Posley said the district is doing the best it can to provide a safe learning space for students. That's why the Hartford Avenue University School and Golda Meir-Lower Campus schools shifted to virtual learning Thursday, joining Lancaster School, which transitioned earlier in the week amid a spike in COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

"The infections are in various grade levels," said Bob Peterson, school board president. "They're spread out throughout the school. They're not like, in one spot, further convincing me that the issue is community spread."

The announcement came a day after the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association opened up on the pandemic's impact in schools to FOX6. As of Thursday night, the MPS COVID-19 dashboard showed 595 open cases.

"What we're living through right now is a disaster," said Amy Mizialko, MTEA.

It's why the union and school board have called on Mayor Tom Barrett and Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson to impose another citywide mask mandate. It's a move they say increases protection outside the schools.

Students at Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS)

"MPS can’t do this by ourselves," said Mizialko.

But in a Public Health and Safety Committee meeting Thursday, Johnson said she isn't sure the policy would have the intended effect.

"If I thought masking… universal masking indoors was going to reduce the number of cases, I would do it," said Johnson.

The Golda Meir-Lower and Hartford Avenue University School students will learn at home until Oct. 11. Posley said the district evaluates its COVID-19 data daily and will use that to make any more changes as needed.

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