In Spring, during the height of the noval coronavirus outbreak, Wisconsin Lutheran High School was grateful for the positive attitude and diligent effort of our faculty to pivot to virtual learning.
However, a high school experience that is reduced to only academics delivered online is an incomplete experience. School closure followed by virtual learning is limited, by its nature, in delivering other critical components of the complete high school experience such as:
Socialization and soft skills;
Real time feedback and coaching;
The fine arts;
School culture; and
The idea that our students are best served by in-person instruction is in agreement with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Guidance for School Re-entry found here.
A Back-to-School Task Force has been meeting since June 2020. Following CDC guidelines, DPI, and Milwaukee County Health guidelines, the following safety measures will be implemented for face-to-face instruction:
The installation (as of July 10) of Global Plasm Solutions Bi-Polar Ionization air purifiers in the air handlers of our dorm and main building which will service all classrooms, gyms, auditorium, cafeteria and offices. These devices kill 99.4% of SARS-2 Coronavirus particles within 30 minutes.
Protocols in place for taking the temperature of students as they enter the building and their answering the standard COVID symptom questions.
Protocols in place for reporting COVID cases should they occur, for quarantining symptomatic students until they can be picked up, and for providing virtual instruction for students who have an extended absence.
Protocols in place for mask-wearing by teachers and students in compliance with the City of Milwaukee’s mandate.
Protocols in place for conducting chapel and lunch periods in multiple locations to avoid large groupings.
Protocols in place for the increased cleaning of locker handles, handrails, desktops and other high-touch surfaces with disinfectant via special dispensers.
The installation of hand sanitizers at all entrances, classrooms and restrooms as well as other strategic locations around the building.
More than 70% of our parents stated that with these measures in place, they felt safe with face-to-face instruction.
“Moving Milwaukee Forward” is the name of the City of Milwaukee Health Department’s phased re-opening plan for our city. It began with the “Safer at Home” emergency order last March, and it ends with Phase 5 which theoretically will resemble life as we knew it before the coronavirus. Gating criteria is in place for each phase and movement from one phase to the next is based on an evaluation of the gating criteria. Currently we are in Phase 4 with Phase 5 not likely in the foreseeable future.
According to the June 4 version of “Milwaukee Moving Forward,” under Phase 4 public and private K-12 schools and universities could open with face-to-face instruction with protective measures in place. Our Back-to-School Task Force has been preparing for that kind of opening this summer, and we had declared that intention to you at the beginning of the summer.
On June 25, the Health Department moved the re-opening of K-12 public and private schools to Phase 5 without any notification. Private schools were not informed of this and the only evidence of the change was that the word “no” had been inserted into the Phase 4 box on their “Moving Milwaukee Forward” grid. Had private school leaders not stumbled on to this change, we would not have known.
That meant, we would not be allowed to open for face-to-face instruction until Phase 5 which we are not likely to enter for quite some time. In other words, we would be limited to virtual instruction and learning.
On July 16, many Milwaukee private school leaders attended a zoom conference hosted by School Choice Wisconsin. Representatives from Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) were present. WILL is the legal entity that advises School Choice Wisconsin.
We learned that private schools in Milwaukee did not have any easy legal recourse in this situation since the Health Department does have the authority to close schools.
Without an easy path for legal recourse, we were advised that our best earthly chance of opening face-to-face was through public pressure.
On Friday, July 17, the Health Department released clarification on school openings (including colleges and universities), stating “As long as we remain in Phase 4, schools are not permitted to hold in person sessions. This pertains to any school that is located in the City of Milwaukee.”
A call to action by friends, families and supporters of WLHS and other private high schools in the City of Milwaukee immediately rallied their troops to help Mayor Barrett, local alderpersons and the Health Department understand the importance of changing back to the original plans for phase 4.
A peaceful march went to the Mayor’s residence on Sunday, July 19. Those who participated did not chant – but silently stood with signs asking for the choice of in-person for schools in Milwaukee like many suburban school had already been granted.
Letters, emails and calls mounted as community leaders and even the Wisconsin Synod President wrote a letter pleading, “In making this request, we come to you not in a spirit of defiance or anger, but with sincere respect for you and for those who serve with you in city government. We are more than willing to work cooperatively with the Milwaukee Health Department to ensure the safety of our students, teachers, and parents. We are confident that you will recognize that our sincere desire is to give the very best to our children and that you will give full consideration to our request.”
On Monday, July 20, 2020, Mayor Barrett issued a statement that read in part: “I would like schools to have the option to open for in person classes this fall, but only if they meet specific criteria and public health authorities feel it is safe. Commissioner Kowalik and her staff will continue to meet with educators to evaluate proposals to return students to school virtually and in-person this fall.”
On Tuesday, July 21, 2020, the Milwaukee Health Department announced that it has changed course and is allowing schools and universities with strong safety plans in place to open for in-person education.
** Please note, these updates are subject to change**
Changes to the Fall Athletic Season WIAA Makes Sweeping Changes
In a 8-3 decision, the WIAA Board of Control approved conducting the fall sports season with a delayed start. The sports of girls golf, girls tennis, girls swimming and diving, and boys and girls cross country will be permitted to begin practice with prescribed acclimatization protocol Monday, August 17. The earliest practice date for the sports of football, boys soccer, and boys and girls volleyball is Monday, September 7.
The Woodland Conference now begins the painstaking task of redoing all of the fall schedules, which have been in place for more than a year. The WC for some time now, has been working on the modified protocols for the operations of our fall activities.
With the passage of the WIAA plan, those protocols can now be finalized by the Conference and will be announced in the weeks ahead.
Wisconsin Lutheran has also been working on plans for the fall. We are in the process of installing a livestreaming camera for our outdoor athletic field. Boys and girls soccer, JV2 and JV football as well as track and field events will now be livestreamed over the NFHS Network! For the past two years, we have been livestreaming all events from our main gym, so this adds to our capabilities. You can sign up for this service at nfhsnetwork.com. We are also working out details to be able to livestream our varsity football games from Raabe Stadium at WLC.
Updated schedules will be posted on our website at wlhs.org/athletics as they are developed and released. Additional information about specific sport protocols will be released as approved by the Woodland Conference.