Parents in De Pere divided over how schools are navigating the pandemic

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 2:54 PM CDT
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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - It’s one city, with two school districts, and a growing number of parents divided over how the schools are navigating the pandemic.

Petitions for and against in-person learning, and virtual learning, are collecting hundreds of signatures in De Pere.

With their children learning online since late September, some De Pere parents say they’ve seen enough.

“Kids are struggling with this virtual learning, they’re not getting their socialization with friends, the co-curriculars are not there, there’s depression setting in,” says parent Mark Radke.

A parent petition to re-open De Pere schools started last week.

“It gained speed very, very fast, I think we’re up near 700 signatures last time I checked,” says Radke.

Radke says the petition has been sent to the school board which meets next Monday night to consider re-opening schools November 9th-- but he’s not holding out much hope.

“I believe that the decision is already made and that these meetings are cosmetic. There’s no clear plan, there’s no transparency within the school board, we’ve made a number of requests, myself and the group members have made a number of requests to the school board members with no response or no direction,” says Radke.

Across the river at West De Pere schools, students are in class, which prompted a parent petition called Safe Schools in West De Pere.

“They continue to say that their main motivation is achievement, but they’re not regarding any of the safety concerns at all, they’re not taking those into consideration, so the petition really is our way of trying to hold the district accountable.”

As a parent, Burns favors virtual learning right now and says the petition has close to 500 signatures demanding the district provide the metrics it’s using to base decisions.

But again, there’s a lack of trust.

“I’m very worried that when they come up with metrics, they’re going to create them specifically to allow in-person learning to continue, rather than really using those recommendations that the medical community has been providing to schools,” says Burns.

Superintendents at both school districts tell us the petitions will be part of a number of factors the school boards will consider in decision-making moving forward.

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