Teachers unions in the state’s five largest school districts are calling on Gov. Tony Evers and the state’s top health and education leaders Monday to require schools to remain closed for now and to start the school year online only, arguing the threat from the coronavirus remains too high for students and staff to safely return.
The unions voiced their concerns in a letter to Evers, Superintendent of Public Instruction Carolyn Stanford Taylor and Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm, saying the virus is “surging across Wisconsin” and that the state has among the fewest restrictions in place to contain its spread.
“I’m looking at the state of Wisconsin, county by county right now, and you have a high (coronavirus) activity level in all but about 10 counties,” said Amy Mizialko, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, who signed the letter alongside union presidents in the Madison, Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha districts.
“We want Gov. Evers to get in the ring and stay in the ring,” she said. “And we believe Secretary Palm has the authority to (order) a virtual start of the school year until there is clear containment and control of the virus.”
Spokeswomen for Evers did not respond to emails from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sunday and Monday seeking the governor’s reaction.
Evers has said in recent weeks that he would not be issuing an order to shut down schools ahead of the fall semester or if health officials find outbreaks tied to classroom instruction.
He said he’d rather see local health officials take steps to quarantine individual classrooms or schools than issue another statewide order shuttering school buildings.
But the coronavirus outbreak in Wisconsin is worsening with three record-setting days of new cases in the last eight days.