Changing course, Kenosha Unified School District board votes to allow in-person, virtual learning choice

The Kenosha Unified School District Board of Education voted on Tuesday night, Aug. 18 to allow in-person learning for students -- reversing an earlier-approved plan to start the school year entirely virtual.

Now, students in the district will need to add masks to their school supplies list.

"They're going to make us wear masks the entire day, we're going to return our assignments through computers, stuff like that," said Emily Beem, a sophomore at Lakeview Technology Academy in Pleasant Prairie.

Beem is attending class in person now that the district is offering the option of on-campus instruction, with several precautions in place to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

"I learned with e-school that I don't really learn as well. I’m more of like a hands-on person," Beem said.

Protesters call for changes to Kenosha Unified School District plan

School board members voted to rescind the all-virtual learning model that had passed on July 28 after mounting pressure and protests from parents to reconsider the back-to-school plan. Students now can choose between traditional or online learning.

Tuesday night's motion also included approving dates for fall sports, which had initially been moved to the spring. Girls swimming and diving, boys and girls cross country, girls tennis and girls gold will begin on Aug. 24. Football, boys and girls volleyball and boys soccer will start on Sept. 7.

"I'm really grateful that the board listened," said Julie Balch, a KUSD parent.

Balch was among those who attended the special meeting, and advocated for the return of fall sports. She said her three children suffered emotionally when they could not compete this past spring.

"I'm personally not concerned. I think the risk of mental health far, far outweighs the COVID risks," Balch said.

While the board's decision now gives families more options, teachers will likely have to return to the classroom regardless. The Kenosha Educators Association (KEA) noted the challenges that could pose moving forward. 

"We believe that a remote work option will enable more consistent, high-quality student support and instruction. For example, staff who feel physically well but are required to quarantine until they see a doctor or see test results can still serve students," the KEA vice president said.

"All of us parents I know are willing to support the teachers, to support the effort to help in any way we can, to keep this moving in a positive way," said Balch.

Educators and administrators have until school starts on Sept. 14 to try to address their concerns with the board's decision.