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Parents uncertain as school districts debate return to in-person class

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MIDDLETON (WKOW) -- While some businesses and colleges have announced plans to get as many people back to their normal routines as possible, most K-12 school districts are still weighing their options.

Like students across Wisconsin, Min Li's children have been learning digitally since mid March. Li said she's been fortunate she's been able to help and support them through their last semester but she said they've had their ups and downs.

"Not seeing each other face to face, not being able to interact I think that's the biggest challenge for the kids," she said.

On top of leaving their teachers and classrooms behind, Li's fourth and eighth graders are also scheduled to start at new schools in the fall.

Li said the school staff went out of their way to make their goodbyes special but combined with coronavirus concerns, she's unsure how they'll be welcomed to their new schools in the fall.

"It's going to be another layer of uncertainty," she said. "It's always a very positive tone saying we look forward to having your kids in our school but I don't think there's definite guidelines on kids returning to school or not."

Moreover, Li said she's not sure she's ready either way the district decides.

"I do want my kids to go back to school to learn and go return to normal but the threat is still there," she said.

Kim Nickel said she's had a similar experience with her 6th and 10th grade children. She acknowledged her older children didn't need as much attention during their online, but her kids also suffered from limited social interaction.

"The learning that happens face to face with a teacher is just different," she said.

Nickel said she's willing to follow whatever guidelines are necessary to get back to in-person learning but she's hoping that will balance the physical and mental health of students as well as the community's best interests.

"Certainly if the numbers stay where they are and we don't see increases over the next few weeks I'd feel safe sending my kids to school," she said.

Districts across the county have weighed different strategies including a hybrid system offering distance options as well as in-person classes, a system asking students to rotate what days they attend in-person class and in most scenarios, districts are considering ask all students to wear masks.

Li said she believes that could work for older students but she's not confident anyone her daughter's age would have the discipline to consistently follow a new set of rules.

"Even if we put all the guidelines everything in place, they will always be kids," she said.

For that reason, she believes school districts are facing an impossible task until doctors develop a vaccine.

Public Health Madison and Dane County have not yet released county-wide guidance or schools. A spokesperson said they plan to do so in the coming weeks.

The Diocese of Madison announced last week Catholic Schools will open for in-person learning but the office did not release details regarding specific safety precautions.

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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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