'We're concerned': Milwaukee students back in school amid COVID-19 surge, sparking fear of outbreaks
MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58)-- Mask-wearing students walked back into classrooms Monday morning for the first day of school in Milwaukee.
"We are essentially in the third school year where our children's education has been impacted by COVID-19," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.
Quite the welcome squad— @MayorOfMKE, @DavidCrowleyWI, @MilwCoSheriff among the many public officials joining @MilwaukeeMPS teachers in welcoming the kiddos to the first day of school. @CBS58pic.twitter.com/uc2MqfQHPt— Gabriella Bachara (@GabbyBachara) August 16, 2021
The first day of school comes with a lot of different emotions, worry being just one of them this year.
"What's keeping me up at night is making sure that all of our students are safe, all of our staff is safe, as well as our community being safe," Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Keith Posley said.
That's why Posley said MPS is keeping up with CDC guidelines on COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
"We've done everything with barriers, the social distancing piece, the HEPA filters in classrooms, making sure we have sanitation stations throughout," Posley said.
There’s talk of a vaccine mandate for @MilwaukeeMPS teachers but nothing in place for the first day of school. Other precautions include:— Gabriella Bachara (@GabbyBachara) August 16, 2021
? Mask Requirement
? Plexiglass barriers
? Social distancing
~1,500 of the 73,000 students chose to stay virtual. @CBS58pic.twitter.com/1LzqxvWaWt
Even with all of those strategies, Milwaukee Teachers Education Association President Amy Mizialko wonders if going back to school is the right choice still. She worries case numbers are far higher than when the decision was made back in June.
"We don't understand why (Milwaukee Health Department) doesn't take leadership and do something to secure schools in the city during a serious uptick," Mizialko said.
The idea of a vaccine requirement for teachers is being tossed around. Mizialko said the problem spreads beyond school buildings, therefore the solution needs to as well.
"We're concerned about the ZIP codes who have the lowest vaccination rates, concerned about those students and families in particular," Mizialko said.
The Milwaukee School Board will review a resolution to require teachers to be vaccinated on Tuesday, Aug. 17. School Board President Bob Peterson doesn't expect a decision until city attorneys can clarify what is and isn't allowed.