Teachers union says MPS could be headed for ‘disastrous’ start of in-person instruction as staff, some students return

NOW: Teachers union says MPS could be headed for ‘disastrous’ start of in-person instruction as staff, some students return

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA) continues its call for the Milwaukee Public Schools Board of Directors to hold a special meeting to publicly discuss the return to classes as it cites the rise in COVID-19 cases as the reason for its concern.

“The B117 variant changes everything,” MTEA President Amy Mizialko told reporters in a video conference Monday, April 12. “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.”

MTEA said it has received numerous concerns about preparations from staff at various schools, though the union would not specify which schools sparked worries. Mizialko said the number of concerns received leaves them to believe the district could get off to a “disastrous” start to its return to in-person instruction.

In March, the MPS board voted to bring staff and students back with a phased-in approach. Staff began returning today with Kindergarten through third grade students set to come back to classrooms on Wednesday, April 14.

Some school administrators told CBS 58 they are confident in their school’s preparations.

“Everyone is excited,” Tyrone Nichols, the principal at Cass Street School told CBS 58. “Of course […], there’s a little caution because of covid, but we’re being careful, so we’re all excited to have the students back.”

Nichols said Cass Street has the necessary equipment to welcome students back on Wednesday morning.

“Desks are all in place, we have our Plexiglass out, all the PPE is in place,” Nichols said. “So everything is going well as we are setting up the classroom, it looks like a regular classroom on the first day of school.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett reaffirmed his support of the district’s plan to return to in-person instruction.

“These decisions have been made based on science and are supported by science,” Barrett said during a video conference. “I think they’re important for moving the community forward.”

Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Keith Posely, said classrooms are ready and they are following public health guidelines closely when it comes to the variants.  

"We are always looking to adjust and adapt anytime it’s necessary because the health and safety of our students and staff is paramount to what we do," Dr. Posley said.

He added that there is one COVID-19 case in a classroom, that classroom will return to virtual learning for two weeks. If there are three  COVID-19 cases in a building, that entire school will go virtual for two weeks. 

In response to MTEA demands for a special school board meeting this week, Dr. Posely said there will be a work session with the administration and board on Thursday.

"We look forward to being able to present to our community," Dr. Posely said.

He also refuted claims by MTEA that some classrooms do not have the necessary COVID-19 precautions yet.

"I will say to you that we will be 100 percent ready to move forward on Wednesday with our young people," Dr. Posley said. 

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