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WUWM's Emily Files reports on education in southeastern Wisconsin.

MPS Plans Full Return To In-Person Learning Next School Year

Clemens Elementary School
Emily Files
Signs at Clemens Elementary School welcomed MPS students back for in-person learning mid-April.

Milwaukee Public Schools is committing to a full return to in-person learning next school year amid concerns about enrollment and learning loss.

Like many school districts, MPS saw an unusual drop in students during the pandemic, especially in the early grades. Four-year-old kindergarten, or pre-K, numbers fell by 22% and kindergarten enrollment declined by about 5%.

Superintendent Keith Posley said at a Tuesday school board meeting that getting back to in-person learning is crucial to keep families in MPS.

"When we look at kindergarten, K4, K5, first grade — our students did not return in large numbers," Posley said. "So therefore families have said to us, 'When we have an in-person option, we will be back.'"

MPS was almost entirely virtual for the majority of this school year. It offered a 4-day-per-week in-person option starting mid-April.

Next year, MPS is planning to offer a limited, standalone virtual option for students. What that will look like is unclear. But the board is telling families that if they do want the virtual pathway, they need to decide by June 21. The short deadline is intended to help MPS figure out how much demand exists for remote learning.

"I know some people might say what will it look like? How can I decide virtual or in-person?," said board president Bob Peterson. "My message would be in-person will be better and the virtual will be more limited."

The MPS board does not want to use concurrent teaching next year because of the burden instructing both students in the room and on the Zoom places on teachers.

MPS plans to follow CDC guidance on social distancing and masking when students return in the fall.

The board is also considering incentives for staff and students to get vaccinated. Right now, adults and children age 12 and up are eligible for the COVID vaccine.

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Emily is WUWM's education reporter and a news editor.
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