One by one, schools in Kenosha and Racine counties have been announcing opening plans that include in-person education or a mix of in-person and virtual.
It’s critical, educators and parents say, to get students back in the classroom and learning again. It’s a local decision, and an important one.
“I think the kids need in-person way more than virtual,” said Rebecca Rusk outside Waller Elementary School in Burlington last Monday. “They get more out of it … the social interaction is so important for these kids right now.
“In spring – that was a challenge. With me working and having the kids also home it was really difficult for me personally … They don’t listen to mom as well as they do their teachers. That was a really big struggle.”
Parents are saying the same thing around the region, and the struggle should not continue for families. They should have a choice to send their children to school, and last week the Kenosha Unified School Board agreed.
Kenosha, like other big city districts in Wisconsin, had decided in late July on an all-virtual start to the year after the teachers’ unions had sounded the alarm about going back too soon during this continuing coronavirus pandemic.
But Kenosha reversed course Tuesday night, actually taking a step back to its earlier extensive planning and approved in-person and virtual starting Sept. 14. Parents can decide.
The resolution to rescind the July 28 decision was made by Tom Duncan, school board president and vice president and chief operating officer of Froedtert South. He cited the downward trend in COVID-19 infections that can be seen almost every day on the front page of the Kenosha News.
“Great news. People are getting the message physically distancing, wearing masks, being smart. That’s where we’re at,” Duncan said. “I think we can continue to improve.”
The Kenosha board voted 7-0 for the new plan, delighting the majority of parents – 58% — who responded in the most recent district survey that they wanted in-person learning. It also approved a plan for fall sports.
The board listened to the community, and Kenosha became the first big district in Wisconsin to commit to in-person. Racine should become the second.
A day after the Kenosha decision, a Racine Unified spokeswoman said the district is not reconsidering its decision to start remotely on Sept. 1. The district also has shelved fall sports.
It should take another look, and there is time. Across Wisconsin there are fewer than 400 people hospitalized for the coronavirus on any given day. And Racine County’s daily positive rate has been running less than Kenosha’s, cited by Duncan as good news.
Kenosha and Racine schools have purchased the equipment and are ready to protect students and teachers with recommended safety measures. They should put them to use and give students the educational experience they deserve.