The school board is expected to vote Thursday on a plan to reopen Milwaukee Public Schools for the 2020-’21 school year.
The plan includes a three-phased approach, beginning with at least 30 days of only virtual instruction. MPS estimates the plan will cost around $90 million.
Here are three things to know about the proposal:
1. Schools will not offer in-class instruction for at least 30 days
The plan recommends reopening schools slowly over three phases. In the first phase, instruction at all grade levels will be conducted virtually.
Virtual instruction will continue for at least 30 to 45 school days after the first day of class, which is Aug. 17 for schools on the early start calendar or Sept. 1 for schools on the traditional calendar. During this time, there will be no students in school buildings. A majority of lessons will be self-guided as opposed to live instruction.
MPS will move into phase two, a blend of virtual and in-person learning, after guidelines ensuring safety are met. During this phase, students will spend two days per week in class and three days per week learning virtually. In-class and virtual learning will be staggered so that no more than half the students in a school will be physically present.
During phase three, all instruction will be in class daily – so long as it is deemed safe by health officials.
At any point during phases two and three, parents can opt their children out of in-person instruction. The district will provide virtual learning options for these students.
Special education services will continue to be provided. But MPS recommends that teams review potential impacts that reduced or no face-to-face instruction might have on the district’s ability to fulfill special education requirements.
2. MPS will provide PPE, regularly clean facilities and hire additional staff
The district has committed to providing at least two masks or face coverings per person; procuring enough cleaning supplies to have a two-month supply on hand at all times; and hiring additional staff and bus drivers to maintain social distancing in schools and on buses.
Classes would be limited to no more than 18 students per classroom in order to maintain social distancing. MPS officials say the district will need to hire one additional staff member per class in order to meet this class-size limit.
Buses will also be limited in their capacity in order to maintain social distancing. MPS officials estimate that bus drivers will need to take four to six trips each in order to get students to school while maintaining social distancing. Families can opt out of transportation services even if their child is still attending in-class instruction.
MPS plans to regularly sanitize high-traffic areas including bathrooms, buses and classrooms. During phase two, when students are present every day but Wednesday, the district will deep clean facilities on Wednesdays.
Students and staff who are symptomatic will be excluded from school buildings. When a nurse is not present, MPS will contact the city Health Department’s call center for medical advice, according to the plan.
The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, the union representing MPS teachers, sent out a communication to members last week detailing demands for political leaders to aid MPS families by ensuring COVID-19 testing is available to all Milwaukee neighborhoods served by MPS schools. The union also called for efficient contact tracing plus other demands regarding health care access, evictions, foreclosures, hunger and workplace safety.
3. MPS’ proposed plan will cost over $90 million to implement
In order to fully implement all three phases of the plan, MPS officials estimate that it will need over $90 million in additional funding. About $80 million of this cost will go to getting additional technology for virtual learning, sanitary supplies and labor as well as the increased transportation costs to ensure social distancing.
How to weigh in
The Board of School Directors will meet virtually in a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. July 16. The agenda is available here.
You can submit written testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org until 3 p.m. Thursday. Those wishing to submit verbal testimony during the meeting can register by calling 414-475-8200 before 3 p.m.