Madison teachers’ union calls for online learning in the fall.

The union said that resuming classroom learning in the fall would be a negligent and deadly decision. Photo: Google Maps

Author: Sam Buisman

The Madison teachers’ union demands that their schools start the year online to keep students and teachers safe from COVID-19. 

In a Thursday press release, Madison Teachers Inc. urged the Madison Metropolitan School District to conduct at least the first quarter of the school year virtually in reaction to the danger of COVID-19 and a lack of funding to do anything else about it. The union recommended that in-person learning should not resume until Dane County goes two weeks without any new confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

Madison Teachers Inc. Vice President Michael Jones wrote in a statement that opening schools for in-person learning in the fall would be absurd and dangerous. 

“Commencing September 1, staff will be ready to teach!” said Jones. “But we refuse to jeopardize the lives of our children or our families with a reopening plan that relies on magical thinking and unfunded mandates.”

The Madison Metropolitan School District is deciding between an all in-person learning plan, an all-virtual learning plan and a hybrid plan for the upcoming school year. While the district’s hybrid learning plan would split students into two groups attending in-person classes on different days, such a plan would still expose teachers to all of their students. 

The battle over school re-openings has become the latest front in coronavirus politics. Those in favor of opening schools for classroom instruction, including President Donald Trump and the American Academy of Pediatrics, point to the detriments to education posed by online learning. According to the Brookings Institute, this past year’s COVID-19 school closures may cause students to start the 2020-2021 school year with 70% of the learning gains of a typical year. 

Others favoring online learning, like the Madison teachers’ union and others across the country, put more weight on the health risks imposed by in-person learning. COVID-19 cases nationwide and in Madison are continuing to rocket upwards with almost no possibility of a vaccine by the fall. 

WSUM will continue to follow this story and issue updates as they emerge.