By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 22, 2021 at 2:02 PM

On Tuesday evening, March 23, at 5:30 p.m., the Milwaukee Board of School Directors will convene virtually to discuss the potential return to in-person learning for all Milwaukee Public Schools students.

The special board meeting – which will be broadcast live at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee (88.9 FM) and on Time-Warner/Spectrum Channel 13 – will also be livestreamed here.

Public testimony will be heard live during the meeting, but you must register by 3 p.m. Tuesday to take part.

You can register by calling (414) 475-8200, by email to governance@milwaukee.k12.wi.us or by faxing to (414) 475-8071.

You may also submit comments in writing by mail to Office of Board Governance, 5225 W. Vliet St., Milwaukee, WI 53221, though it’s a bit late for that option now.

You can read the MPS administration proposal for a return to school in detail here.

In short, administration is suggesting returning K3 through second grade students on April 12, grades 3-8 on April 19 and grades 9-12 on April 26. The virtual option would remain available to families who prefer not to return to buildings yet.

The return would find students in the buildings four days each week, with Wednesday reserved for online learning at home.

Masks would be required, as would physical distancing, though how that would be achieved in buildings that have little extra space remains to be seen.

School buses would operate at 50 percent capacity.

Air filtration and additional cleaning and sanitation are being implemented. The district says it has 142 temporary workers doing additional cleaning work and that 32 more are scheduled to join for the reopening.

Teachers and staff are currently eligible to receive vaccines.

As a parent, I’m on the fence. While I see first-hand that some kids can thrive in the remote learning environment, I also see others struggling.

Depending on how the re-opening looks at our specific schools, we’ll likely consider both in-person and virtual learning, depending on the child.

Also figuring into the decision is the fact that for grades 9-12, the last day of school is May 26, including a week of finals (and no classes). A return date of April 26 means three weeks of school at four days a week (and there’s a day off on May 17) for these students.

I’m not sure that’s worth upsetting a routine that’s been in place for nine-tenths of the school year for teenaged students who are not yet entirely eligible to be vaccinated.

Not on the fence is Ald. Michael J. Murphy, who issued this statement on Monday, urging the board to vote to reopen:

“When it comes to returning to in-person learning, I appreciate the caution and diligence demonstrated to this point, but I believe now is the time for our students to resume their learning in-person.

“Other urban communities including New York City, Chicago and Boston have begun phasing in in-person schooling, and it is time Milwaukee does the same. I hope the Milwaukee Board of School Directors agrees and votes to allow children to return to the classroom in April.”

This is a complicated issue for many MPS families, who don't all face the same challenges. Where do you stand? Make your voice heard at Tuesday’s meeting.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.