'I'm not worried:' Parents, students protest Oak Creek-Franklin schools' all-virtual learning decision

Parents and some students on Thursday, Aug. 20 wanted to confront leaders of the Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District with a message -- they believe that children need to be back in the classroom with their peers and teachers.

A protest was held outside the district office on Thursday, hoping to pressure the school board to allow in-person learning this fall.

"These kids need to be in school, they need to socialize, they need to be around teachers, they need to be around other kids," said parent Christine Lenczner.

Last week, board members voted to adopt a three-phase back-to-school plan, starting off the school year in Phase 1 -- full remote learning. The decision reversed an earlier plan that offered the choice between on-campus or online classes.

Lenczner said families now have just a few weeks to adjust their schedules before the Sept. 1 start date.

Protests over Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District schools starting the 2020-21 year with virtual learning

"Parents who have younger children are scrambling now to go to work or to find child care," Lenczner said.

In a statement to FOX6 News, District Superintendent Dan Unertl said the board's decision took into account new data "where Oak Creek was identified as a Milwaukee County hot spot" for COVID-19.

Unertl said guidance from the local health officer also indicated that contact tracing would post a significant challenge and would likely result in the school shutting down anyway.

Protests over Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District schools starting the 2020-21 year with virtual learning

"We don't shut the schools down, we don't shut the world when five or 10 people have the flu during the winter season," said Lenczner. "They go home, they take care of it."

Lenczner admitted it is likely that her two high school-aged children could contract the virus if they return to school. She said the risk outweighs the benefits of in-person learning.

"I'm not worried, I'm not scared. To me, it's just part of life," Lenczner said. 

Parents are also accusing the district of profiting off of online learning by charging families $100 a week if they need to send their children to the district-run day care called "Day Camp" this fall.

The superintendent said the fee covers costs associated with expanding Day Camp to serve as many as 500 elementary and middle school-aged children in the district.

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The Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District's school board on Thursday voted to begin the upcoming year with virtual learning, adopting a phased approach to reopening.

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