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Teachers hoping MMSD decides to stay virtual

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) has been virtual since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, but that could be changing soon.

School officials tell 27 News the superintendent will be making a decision this week about whether students will start the second semester in-person.

We've heard all fall and winter from families on both sides of the argument, and now we're hearing from teachers.

"I really, really miss being in-person with the kids," said Kati Walsh, who teaches art at O'Keeffe Middle School. "I miss the hugs. I miss the bantering in the classroom and the silliness, and the making beautiful work together... but I also know it's not safe to go back yet."

Apparently, Walsh isn't alone.

In survey data she shared with 27 News, more than 94 percent of surveyed Madison teachers don't want to go back in-person for the third quarter, which is set to begin January 25.

Walsh says she's one of them, hoping the district stays virtual.

"Before the pandemic, teachers have been giving their lives already for teaching," she said. "A lot of us have had a lot of anxiety, depression, mental health issues from teaching. To ask to give more at this point -- our physical lives and physical well-being -- is too much."

Walsh says she has a history of heart problems in her family, and she won't feel completely safe until she receives the COVID-19 vaccine.

Guidance from Public Health Madison and Dane County from December said schools can now reopen safely:

Public Health Madison & Dane County believes that schools can operate safely and effectively with strong infection-control measures in place...

MMSD says its schools meet that criteria.

Source: MMSD Reopening Plan
Source: MMSD Reopening Plan

According to its latest reopening plan, 100 percent of its facilities are ready with new cleaning and other procedures.

The most recent data included in the school's reopening plan also shows, however, that the community spread of COVID-19 is still too high. It categorizes families' opinions on reopening as "in progress," with undated survey data showing less than a third of families preferring hybrid or in-person instruction.

As far as teachers, Walsh says it's clear.

"I feel like the people pushing to go back don't care about my physical health," she said. "That's how it feels."

MMSD says Superintendent Dr. Carlton Jenkins will announce the third quarter plan this coming Friday.

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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