'Can't shut down our lives:' Mequon-Thiensville parents protest, calling for in-person learning this fall

Teachers in the Mequon-Thiensville School District will report to work Monday, Aug. 24 to prepare for the virtual start of the school year Sept. 1, but some parents are still asking for the option to go in-person.

More than 100 people stood along Mequon Road, outside school district headquarters Sunday, many wearing masks and holding signs demanding the Mequon-Thiensville School District open schools for in-person learning.

"Virtual learning is not possible for the majority of parents that work," said Scarlett Johnson, parent.

"I'm concerned about their social and emotional well being," said Andrea Lorenz, parent.

"We're out here because this decision should not have been made without the input of the students and the teachers, excuse me, parents, not just the teachers," said Rob Wirthlin, parent.

Classes were slated to start in-person Sept. 1, but the high risk of COVID-19 community spread in the district's ZIP codes meant the district switched to virtual learning.

Superintendent Matthew Joynt said in a letter to parents the, "Goal remains a return to on-campus instruction for the 2020-2021 school year as soon as possible. As educators, we believe it is absolutely the best way to deliver a high-quality education to all children...while also acknowledging the burden virtual learning can place on families."

Those sentiments have been echoed by many, and that virtual learning is isolation at home on a computer and that students should be back in school -- despite the health concerns.

"Parents are going back to work," said Anne Schultz parent. "Essential workers are going back. Doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, they're going back, and we can't shut down our lives on a virus."

Some added that even if an outbreak occurs, schools should remain open.

"The school shouldn't shut down," said Wirthlin. "We got to find a way to work through it, yes."

As for now, the district is still moving forward with its virtual start on Sept. 1. That said, current COVID trends are pointing downward. If that continues through the end of August, on-campus and distance learning could be offered as early as the second week of school.

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