MADISON (WKOW) -- As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state, local teachers unions are demanding all Wisconsin K-12 schools, colleges and universities begin virtual learning without face-to-face instruction.
Standing outside the Department of Health Services (DHS) building in Madison, Andy Waity, president of Madison Teachers Incorporated, and Amy Mizialko, president of Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association, led Wednesday's news conference. They called on DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to close schools in order to slow the spread of the virus.
"Wisconsin cases are out of control with exponential growth," said Waity. "We must go backwards to go forwards."
The unions want face-to-face instruction to end until community spread of the virus is contained. They say families are already knowingly sending COVID-19 positive, symptomatic students to school.
"We cannot rely on individuals to make good decisions in a pandemic," said Mizialko. "It requires a systemic response. This is why we have government, it's why we pay taxes and it's why we have elections."
The Madison and Milwaukee teachers unions-- speaking on behalf of unions in Kenosha, Racine and Green Bay as well-- also want each school district, private school, college and university to develop a reopening plan. The plan must then be approved by DHS public health experts, and they should confirm the plans are feasible. Unions also want schools to have the necessary personal protective equipment to accomplish their respective reopening plans.
This fall, the state's largest districts, including Madison and Milwaukee, chose to remain almost entirely virtual. With the flu season coming up and teacher deaths from COVID, union reps hope it stays that way.