MPS to start school year virtually due to COVID-19: 'We just have to follow the science'

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) has decided to start with online classes as COVID-19 cases surge in southeast Wisconsin. The school board made that official late Thursday night, July 16.

Antar Green

With classes moving online for the start of the MPS 2020-21 school year, Antar Green is taking advantage of every opportunity to get his family outside this summer.

"They're already in the house since March, so it's like, they're already stir crazy," said Green, an MPS parent.

Green is disappointed his three children will miss out on seeing their peers in the fall. But he said he understands the district's decision to keep buildings closed amid the pandemic.

"Because if one kid gets COVID, then a lot of kids are going to get it," Green said.

The school district will take a three-part, phased-in approach to reopening schools. It will range from full, remote instruction to a hybrid of virtual and in-person, and eventually in person.

Keith Posley

"We just have to follow the science because it could change at any moment," said Keith Posley, MPS Superintendent.

Posley said district officials will look to local, state, and national health experts for guidance on when it is safe to transition between phases.

"We will also be looking at the rate of infection. And looking at those 14-day trends," Posley said.

In the meantime, district officials are working to touch base with every family to ensure they have a successful at-home learning experience.

"Over 75,000 students that we had in the spring -- we were not able to get in contact with about roughly 6,800 students," Posley said.

This, as parents navigate how they will balance their own careers and their child's education.

"With my 6-year-old, with me working during the day, it's going to be difficult to get him online and to pay attention," said Porsha Garrett, an MPS parent.

Part of the decision to open schools is out of MPS hands. The Milwaukee Health Department announced on Friday, July 17 that in-person instruction is prohibited because the city remains in Phase 4 of its assessment of COVID-19 in the community. To get out of Phase 4, health officials say the city must see a downward trend in positive cases, more personal protective equipment must become available, and there must be improved contact tracing.