Educators, families protest and petition for in-person learning

A debate over in-person learning is brewing this week in several Wisconsin school districts. 

Some parents feel that virtual learning does not work for all families, and some educators and parents are protesting or starting petitions to get kids back in the classroom.

In Racine on Wednesday, Dec. 9, several students and their families took part in a demonstration.

"One size doesn’t always fit all," said Tiffany Engibous, principal of Renaissance Lutheran School.

Engibous said school teachers and staff are concerned over the City of Racine's public health ordinance, which loses all schools until Jan. 15. She believes that families should have a choice between in-person and virtual learning.

Protest calling for in-person learning options amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Meanwhile, in Kenosha, the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) is following recommendations from the health department, which recommends all schools close from Nov. 23 through Jan. 4 due to the rise in Kenosha County's COVID-19 cases.

Candice Ohm, a KUSD parent, launched an online petition.

"The goal of this petition is to get the school board to hear us parents," said Ohm. "We are not qualified as parents to be a teacher."

Protest calling for in-person learning options amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Ohm, too, believes it should be up to parents to decide whether their child has in-person or virtual learning. Hundreds are supporting her.

 "What’s best for one child is not best for the other," Ohm said.

Back in Racine, a city spokesman tells FOX6 News that there have been more COVID-19 outbreaks in school buildings than any other venue. The health department said there is also an anticipated spike in COVID-19 cases due to the holidays, where children and staff could become "super spreaders in the community." Racine's health administrator, Dottie-Kay Bowersox, said, in part, that these are: "tough decisions to slow the spread of COVID-19."

Engibous said she takes the virus seriously, but too many families are struggling.

"Many of them are having to bring multiple families into one home and trying to get enough bandwidth," Engibous said. "I am just hoping to bring awareness and unity to the situation."

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Statement from Dottie-Kay Bowersix, Racine public health administrator:

“COVID-19 is being spread throughout the community in the number of daily cases and rates of positivity that have not been seen before. Outbreaks are linked to family gatherings on private property with people from outside of their household including sports parties, baby showers, and backyard gatherings.  In addition, through retail establishments and employment situations.

"Over the last 9 months after every major holiday, significant spikes in positive cases occur because individual gatherings in private residences do not implement the necessary precautions to ensure that they and others do not contract the virus. Given that, the Public Health Department fully expects to see a sharp increase in cases yet again between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year. Currently schools remain one of the largest gathering places within our jurisdiction and after the holidays, those children and staff could become super spreaders in the community.

“This is a difficult decision that will certainly make a segment of the population very unhappy. However, until all of our residents take the very real threat to health and life that this virus presents seriously, we will continue to have to make these tough decisions to slow the spread of COVID-19. Combating COVID-19 requires everyone to take personal responsibility for their actions, and the recognition that inconveniences now, like wearing a mask properly and not participating in family gatherings outside of your immediate household, are necessary to protect public health and save lives."

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