State and local leaders discuss school reopening during COVID-19 briefings

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MILWAUKEE COUNTY (CBS 58) -- On Thursday, Sept. 3, state and local leaders discussed plans for schools and colleges after seeing a number of positive cases since they’ve reopened.

Longfellow Middle School in Wauwatosa told parents in a letter five employees tested positive for COVID-19. Milwaukee County health officials say as expected, schools in the region are now seeing cases.

We have seen and heard cases identified in staff, students and faculty in these schools,” said Darren Rausch, health officer and director for the Greenfield Health Department.

Longfellow Middle School announced they were turning to virtual learning temporarily due to the positive cases. While the school is experiencing cases within their staff, Milwaukee County health experts say they are finding many parents not following proper public health measures for students.

Parents have sent their COVID-19 positive child to school,” added Rausch. “Additionally, departments have identified many parents have not been quarantining their child appropriately and have sent that child to school or a day care setting.”

State health officials also chimed in on how colleges are dealing with the pandemic. They say the state has provided funding through the CARES Act for UW systems and other colleges to provide more testing capacity. They plan to work with local health officials to control outbreaks at schools.

In the case of outbreaks, we are in close partnership about what we need to do together to stop the spread as quickly as possible,” said Andrea Palm, secretary- designee for the Wisconsin Department of Health.

Governor Tony Evers says his staff is also keeping in communication with former governor and Interim UW President Tommy Thompson.

I think we’re in a good place of understanding of what their needs are and we’re working with them to keep their students as safe as possible,” said Gov. Evers.

Meanwhile, some schools are still working on a reopening plan.

Milwaukee Public Schools started their school year virtually. The city’s health commissioner, Jeanette Kowalik, says if Milwaukee schools want in-person learning, they are required to submit a safety plan.

So far we’ve received 150 plans—so those plans are still being reviewed,” said Kowalik.

Epidemiologists say the success of controlling the spread requires parents and students to take part in public health initiatives.

“The success of our public health initiatives needs you to make those effective, we need your help,” added Rausch.

As far as Longfellow Middle School goes, the building is currently closed for cleaning and disinfecting.  School officials hope to go back to hybrid learning by Monday, Sept. 14.

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