MPS reopening questions remain, teachers union critical of plan

Milwaukee Public Schools has begun surveying families district-wide about whether they wish to send their students back into buildings or continue virtual schooling.

The teachers union said those are questions that should have been answered before any plan was put in place.

"I appreciate the work that has been in the schools and on this board, though, we need to plan for next year and not force our way into this year," said Nicolo Onorato, Reagan High School special education teacher.

After hours of public comment Tuesday, the MPS Board ultimately decided to welcome students starting April 14. 

"Doing this is not easy," said Barrett.

Milwaukee Public Schools MPS

Thursday, Barrett said concerns remain and he understands those of the union, but that efforts have been made to ensure teachers are able to get vaccinated. He welcomes the ability for most families to choose the schooling option that suits them.

"I am not sending my children back, physically. I am glad I have that option," said Bradley Cramer, a history and sociology teacher and MPS parent.

Following the pre-K through third grade start on April 14, grades four through eight will return on April 19. High school seniors and those in danger of failing will return April 26. Students in other high school grades will remain in virtual learning for the remainder of the school year.

"This is not an easy function at all, and clearly there's a lot of responsibility and pressures on the Milwaukee Public Schools to get it right," Barrett said.

Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA)

Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA)

However, the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association called the plan a "mess" and said it lacked input from members and frontline workers. In a statement Friday, MTEA said it is working to get answers to the questions that remain:

"MTEA is working hard right now to help our members, students and their families obtain the important information that is missing from MPS’ presentation so they can understand how this is going to work. Families need this information to make the best-informed decision they can about whether to return in-person.

"Unfortunately, with so many questions, it is hard to forecast how many students are set to return and MPS just began the process of determining which staff will and won’t return physically. MTEA cannot endorse details of a plan that does not exist, and we’ve always opposed any unsafe return."

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With students expected to return to the classroom, FOX6 News wanted to know: Would teachers be there as well?

The union did not answer that question directly, but said safety protocols, class size and how that would work upon students' return need to be answered before the union endorses any plan.

Statement from MPS:

"MPS believes we carry the same beliefs and values as the MTEA in providing a quality education for the students within our district. MTEA remains an active participant in our effort to bring students and staff back into school buildings safely. We are confident that union leaders and members will continue to support, engage, and assist in problem-solving to provide high quality and safe in-person learning."

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