Days after Waukesha County hit record for new COVID-19 cases, district votes on school reopening plan

Back to school in Waukesha comes with controversy. The school board met Wednesday, Aug. 12 to consider a phased-in approach to reopening.

At the end of July, the board voted on a plan that included an option for parents -- with Sept. 1 marking the first day of school.

Parents call for in-person learning in Waukesha

A large group of parents called for a return to in-person learning for their children ahead of the critical vote for the School District of Waukesha.

"It's proven that live from the teachers is better education for them," said Karrie Kozlowski, who has two children in the district. "It's a better learning environment."

The proposed plan is broken down into phases, with Phase 1 kicking off the school year online. In order to move to Phase 2, hybrid learning, the county's percent positive rate will need to be 5% or less for two weeks.  The last two weeks of data show the lowest being 6.7%.

"I support a phased reopening -- not out of fear of this virus," said a teacher. "I'm not afraid of getting sick. I am, however, extremely concerned for my students."

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has noted the statewide mask mandate applies inside school buildings. In Waukesha, teachers will wear both a mask and a face shield. Masks are also required on the school bus.

Noting 6 feet of separation is going to be "difficult," Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow said enforcement will be a challenge, and it will not be school resource officers' top priority.

On Friday, Aug. 7, the county hit a record for the total number of new, positive COVID-19 cases. In July, nearly half of all cases were from people ages 10 to 29.

"I think that the media has just paralyzed people with fear, with their fear-mongering propaganda," said Karen Duane, who has a daughter in the district.

Duane, a Waukesha parent, is also a teacher in Milwaukee.

"The CDC director's saying that the kids are fine to go back to school," she said. "I don't understand what the problem is."

The big worry from some parents in favor of phased-in returns is the start-and-stop the school year will likely face.