'Welcome back!' MPS reopens for in-person learning Wednesday, some students remain virtual

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Updated: 04/14/2021 03:32 PM

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – The doors of Milwaukee Public Schools are back open to some students beginning Wednesday, April 14.

Students in Pre-K through third grade headed back to the classroom.

“I can’t wait to meet the kids," said Violet, 6, a kindergarten student at German Immersion School.

CBS 58 spoke with families at German Immersion School who were happy to be back and confident in the MPS plan.

“I think it should have been earlier considering some of the other districts are still having school," Katina Carney, whose daughter is starting second grade, said.

"Just the interaction with the kids is what we, definitely, as a family feel that kids need. So getting back in school is going to be the best thing emotionally for all the kids and everyone involved," said father Joe Deschane, whose daughter started K4.

The first day back to in-person classes for students in more than a year was one unlike any other as classrooms were filled with Plexiglass barriers and physical distancing between students.

But school leaders said students were up to the task on day one.

“Everything is going well,” Principal Tyrone Nichols of Cass Street School told CBS 58. “All of the students seem to be perfectly comfortable following the guidelines today.”

MPS Superintendent Dr. Keith Posley said more than 59% of families surveyed decided to return to class.

One-third chose to remain virtual.

But there were concerns, including from MPS Board of School Directors member Sequanna Taylor of District 3, who voted against the return to in-person instruction.

“I was one of those that was on the fence about us returning,” Taylor said in a news conference Wednesday morning. “But I know our educators are doing everything possible to ensure all of our students and families are safe.”

In an one-on-one interview, Taylor expanded on her position.

“My reserves are more the safety,” Taylor said. “I’m not reserved about our educators or our families because I want to do right with them, but I just want to make sure we’re creating an environment that is safe first.”

The return to classrooms received its strongest pushback from the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.

In a statement, the union said it received more than 150 reports of health and safety concerns at schools since Monday, April 12.

The statement also says in part: “While these serious concerns should have been resolved before students arrived, there is no longer any option but to fix the many remaining problems. Our students, our members and all MPS families’ health and safety depend on us getting it right. MTEA will be a watchdog for health and safety concerns for MPS staff, students and their families.”

But MPS administrators said safety protocols, available PPE, the ongoing vaccine effort, support from a majority of MPS families and a plateau of COVID-19 cases in Milwaukee all give them confidence in the plan going forward.

“Those are the kinds of things that have come together to say, this is time, this is something we can do safely,” Posley told reporters in a news conference.

The school board and the district will have a work session Thursday on the district's reopening.


Published: 04/14/2021 06:12 AM

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – The doors of Milwaukee Public Schools are back open to some students beginning Wednesday, April 14.

Students in Pre-K through third grade headed back to the classroom.


“I can’t wait to meet the kids," said Violet, 6, a kindergarten student at German Immersion School.

MPS precautions inside schools include barriers and sanitizing stations.

“Desks are all in place, we have our plexiglass out, all the PPE is in place, so everything is going well as setting up the classroom,” Cass Street School principal Tyrone Nichols said. “It looks like a regular classroom on the first day of school.”

As for air flow, Dr. Posley said windows will be opened, HEPA filters will be in rooms and exhaust fans will run throughout the day.

Posley said more than 59% of families surveyed decided to return to class.

One-third chose to remain virtual.

“We’re going to have a session, basically daily, on health and safety. How do you stay safe, washing your hands, wearing face coverings, staying a distance away from your classmates and things of this nature," said Posley.

CBS 58 spoke with families at German Immersion School who were happy to be back and confident in the MPS plan.

“I think it should have been earlier considering some of the other districts are still having school," Katina Carney, whose daughter is starting second grade, said.

"Just the interaction with the kids is what we, definitely, as a family feel that kids need. So getting back in school is going to be the best thing emotionally for all the kids and everyone involved," said father Joe Deschane, whose daughter started K4.

However, the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association has several doubts about safety, and the UK variant (B117) of the virus.

“We continue to demand a clear plan that outlines and answers the multitude of unanswered questions because the risks for children and their families and staff is greater with this variant,” Milwaukee Teachers Education Association President Amy Mizialko said.

The school board and the district will have a work session Thursday on the district's reopening.

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