‘We’re not being patient anymore:’ Local parent groups push for return to in-person learning

With Covid-19 cases where they are, is it safe for kids to return to school buildings?

MADISON, Wis. — Many parents are wondering: with COVID-19 cases where they are, is it safe for kids to return to school buildings?

The Madison schools community is working out a plan for the rest of the school year, which they’ll announce later this week. Getting kids, teachers, and support staff back inside school buildings is something people on both sides feel very strongly about.

This Friday, MMSD superintendent Dr. Carlton Jenkins will make a decision on whether Madison will begin some form of in-person learning for at least some students in the third quarter, which begins January 25.

Grassroot parent groups say just last month, public heath research suggested schools are not sources of community spread of the virus. Public Health issued new recommendations saying it was safe for schools to reopen with the necessary safeguards and under a phased approach that would send younger students back to the classroom first.

“We are the parents, we are the taxpayers,” said parent Naomi Arreola. “We should be involved in this, so obviously what we are hoping for is our kids to be in full-time and we wanna see the path to that. We wanna see that path before next fall. This is way too long for these kids to be out of school, we’ve been patient but we’re not being patient anymore.”

A lot of Madison teachers feel differently, though. In a study conducted by Madison teachers union MTI, about 94% of the approximately 1,000 teachers who responded opposed returning for in-person classes in the third quarter.

The World Health Organization’s data suggests the spread of the virus in schools could be limited, but that’s only true if techniques like mask-wearing and social distancing are in place. This is what parents like Joshua Russow are using to push for schools to reopen.

“They have now been giving the permission to open, but that doesn’t mean they all are actually opening or fully opening for specific grades,” said Russow.

Some studies have shown COVID-19 spread increases with age, meaning secondary school students are at a higher risk to both get and spread the disease, though still seemingly below that of adults.

Staff are just as likely to contract the virus and many teachers fall into higher risk categories for developing serious complications. The Bring Kids Back movement says their next plan of action is to speak directly with Public Health Madison and Dane County.