The DPI has issued Education Forward, guidance for Wisconsin schools in planning a safe, efficient and equitable return to school for the 2020-21 school year.
In the document, the DPI suggests schools consider smaller class sizes, shift schedules to reduce the number of children in a building at one time and focus on mental health supports and emotional well-being if students return to classrooms in the fall. The guidance goes over possible schedule setups, cleaning and staff considerations and school building layouts and modifications that could minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus. But DPI is also telling schools to be prepared to swiftly change plans next school — switching between in-person, physically distanced and online learning depending on the status of the pandemic.
Whatever the future holds, WEAC is urging local educators to get involved with their districts as plans are made, and is putting pressure on administrators and school boards to listen to input from teachers and support professionals.
“Collaboration is imperative for a safe return to schools,” WEAC President Ron “Duff” Martin said. “WEAC has partnered in discussions with the DPI, school administrators, education boards and others as this guidance was developed. The same should happen in every single school district as individual plans are made. Educators must be at the table for a safe, stable reopening.”
The DPI says schools will reopen in the fall and this guidance covers changes to school operations to address risk factors, the educational needs of students who are not able to return to school and changing conditions due to the pandemic.
Earlier this spring, WEAC issued its own platform for reopening schools from the perspective of teachers and education support professionals. “WEAC’s platform, created by educators from across Wisconsin, balances educational goals with health and economic realities. Districts must be sure all voices are included in planning and provide for ongoing information sharing after local plans are put into action.”
In addition to collaborating with the DPI and state health services, WEAC has led efforts for a safe return to school for technical colleges and districts. WEAC has also issued a Safe Return to School Platform for technical colleges, in cooperation with AFT-Wisconsin.
“WEAC’s platform was important in our conversations with DPI and DHS on the state reopening guidance,” Martin said.
The NEA has also issued guidance on the reopening of schools, All Hands on Deck: Initial Guidance for Reopening Schools.
If you are a WEAC member with questions about transitioning back to school, ask us using our secure online form.