Nov. 17, 2020 10:05p; Updated at 11:35p
(WGTD)---The Kenosha School Board voted 6-1 Tuesday night to temporarily scuttle in-person learning as an option and return to all virtual from Nov. 30th to Jan. 8th. An exception was carved out for some special education students.
A second motion to suspend winter sports from Nov. 30th to Jan. 3rd passed 5-2.
The motions fall in line with a recommendation from Kenosha County's health officer who's trying to find ways to control a surge in coronavirus cases.
Just last week, Board President Tom Duncan and Superintendent Sue Savaglio-Jarvis, in an email sent to parents, said the district planned to continue on with in-person learning as an option despite the health officer's recommendation. That was before Tuesday night's board meeting, new state records on positive COVID cases and deaths and a grievance presented to the school district by over 200 teachers who are upset with the district's response to the virus.
Andrea Shike and her husband are both teachers in the district. The couple has three kids. Speaking at Tuesday's board meeting, Shike said teachers--not to mention students--are happy to be back in school buildings. "But we are also scared--scared that one of our students will contract this virus and bring it home to their multi-generational families. Scared that our students will be hospitalized. Scared that we are going to get it and bring it to our families. Scared that one of our students are going to die."
A Lincoln Middle School teacher said she's currently in her third quarantine and has to wear a mask in her own home.
Classrooms and schools have shut down on a case-by-case basis in response to students and staff contracting the disease and exposing others. On any given day, several hundred students and staff are supposed to be home in isolation. Some teachers who spoke Tuesday night said the game plan just isn't sustainable, especially with the rising number of cases.
Board President Tom Duncan seemed to agree. "We must begin to consider an alternative approach," he said.
Board member Todd Battle, President of the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, cast the only no vote against temporarily reverting to virtual learning. "I think we're shifting the burden from the schools to everyone else in the community," he said.
Board member Dan Wade, who had been a strong proponent of giving parents and students a choice of enrolling in either in-person or virtual instruction, signaled it was time to temporarily keep the kids home. "Like I've often spoke about how common sense has disappeared, well, I still have some common sense and this is the time to apply it," Wade said.
As of Tuesday, 250 confirmed COVID cases have been reported among staff and students who are engaged in the in-person option. In three of the last four days, new positive cases in the district have been in the double digits. Based on what was said at the board meeting, Tremper High School--one of the district's three comprehensive high schools--is already closed through Nov. 30th because of staff absences. Now it presumably won't open until January.
Two speakers were parents who supported choice. A single mother of three who worked an overnight shift at a hospital sounded like she was at her wit's end in coping with quarantines that had sent her two oldest kids home. "I haven't slept because I'm trying to be there for my kids," she said. "I appreciate you guys so much giving a parent a choice of sending their kids to school or virtual."
Although the suggestions weren't formally acted on Tuesday night, Duncan said focus groups should be formed at individual schools to discuss best practices. He also suggested that the district take some time to fine-tune quarantine protocols.