'Anxious and uncertain:' Questions, concerns persist as schools prep for fall return

Masks and hand sanitizer are just the beginning of a list of items that schools will need to help students and staff stay safe come fall.

Though the state stepped in to help, some are wondering if it will be enough.

Greg Engle, director of planning and preparedness with Wisconsin Emergency Management, said the state is dipping into its stockpile to help protect those who are headed back into school buildings.

"We received a big supply of cloths masks and infrared thermometers from FEMA," Engle said. "We understand it's not meant to be 100% of what the schools need, it's meant to provide them an initial supply."

Engle said Wisconsin Emergency Management has shipped millions of pieces of PPE to schools across the state.

Workers tend to Wisconsin's emergency PPE stockpile

Meanwhile, some feel that the safety measures in place are just a drop in the bucket. Ron Martin, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), said there is a lack of a return plan in a broader sense of education and wants more to be done on a larger level.

"Now as we look to another school year, parents and educators are still anxious and uncertain," said Martin. "We deserve more testing, a national tracing plan, proper PPE and the funding to make it all happen so we can go back to our school face-to-face safely."

In southeastern Wisconsin, districts, like Whitefish Bay, have decided to open their doors with a blended learning model.

"That is not an easy decision, but our community wants our students to be back in school for the most part and we need to realize that," Dr. John Thomsen, Whitefish Bay superintendent of schools, said.

To facilitate the hybrid of in-person and virtual learning, Thomsen said the district had to purchase additional items -- like barriers and signage -- to help mitigate the risks.

"It's our responsibility to make sure everyone is safe, and we want to make sure would-be team members feel supported coming back in this environment," said Thomsen.

On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Tony Evers said he is pleased with the district conversations and community involvement, but with the virus, he is not in a position to say what exactly schools will look like across the state come September.

Whitefish Bay school board approves plan to start school year with in-person and virtual learning

Debate went into the night Monday, Aug. 3 as the Whitefish Bay School District board met virtually to discuss plans to return to school amid the coronavirus.