MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee Public Schools students on the traditional calendar started school Tuesday, Sept. 6, including most MPS elementary school students. Masks were optional for MPS students upon their return to class. High school and middle school students resumed classes Aug. 15.
Almost 70,000 students at more than 150 schools across Milwaukee returned to class on Tuesday as the new school year began.
Students were filled with smiles and nerves but ready for new beginnings.
"I’m excited about just learning cursive," said Lauren Kinter. "I think we’re going to do that with my teacher."
What was different for the students Tuesday was that masks were optional. Per CDC recommendations, masks will be optional for MPS staff and students through at least Sept. 8.
In July, the MPS board voted to switch to the CDC's COVID-19 Community Levels metric system. Instead of relying on transmission rate within the city of Milwaukee, the system focuses on three factors – new COVID-19 hospital admissions, the percent of staffed inpatient beds and the total new cases over the past seven days.
MPS will only require masks when the Community Level is in the "high" category. In other cases, masks will remain optional.
The CDC updates its data every Thursday. Using this data, MPS officials say they will make determinations every Thursday, with mask requirements being revised for the following school day and subsequent week. The district mask status will be available on the MPS COVID-19 Updates webpage.
"I’m pretty happy about not having to wear a mask because sometimes it’s a little hot, and with glasses, they fog up," said Kinter.
As of Tuesday, Milwaukee County was in the medium category, so masks were optional. If it returns to high, masks would once again become mandatory.
"We're prepared for any challenge that may come our way, and so that is something that we do," said MPS Superintendent Keith Posley.
For many, Tuesday was the start of a new chapter. Scott Kinter said it's all about finding your child's home away from home.
"It’s gonna go really fast," said Kinter. "Just really enjoy it. Find a school where the community really matters, and work together to help your kid grow."
That's what Posley says it's all about.
"First of all, to parents, thank you for selecting Milwaukee Public Schools to educate your child," said Posley. "You have selected the best, so thank you.
Another challenge MPS schools are facing this year is teacher shortages. When FOX6 News asked Posley about it on Tuesday, he would not directly address the shortages but said they are working on solutions.t classroom support, and expand mental health services in schools.