Criteria for reopening schools debate continues in Green Bay
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – It’s been nearly two months since the Green Bay school board decided to start the 2020-21 school year virtually, and after a half dozen meetings and hours of discussion it’s still unclear what criteria will be used to decide when to return to in-person instruction.
No vote was planned at the Monday, Sept. 28 meeting, and finalized criteria wasn’t available.
The current metric has students returning to onsite learning when positivity rates fall below 5 percent.
However, due to the impact negative tests have on this metric, the board has been working to find better criteria.
That decision was pushed in late August in anticipation of reopening recommendations from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Service (DHS), which never came.
Trustees then tabled a decision at two meetings as they waited on a dashboard from the county, which was released Monday, Sept. 28.
The most recent data added to the mix is a model from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provides five levels of risk in regards to virus transmission in schools.
The five-level model (lowest, lower, moderate, higher, highest) looks at case burden, test positivity and the ability to mitigate virus spread in schools.
The model doesn’t suggest when schools should transition between the three learning platforms, but rather outlines the risk of introduction and subsequent transmission of the coronavirus.
“The presumption is when you’re in the lower and lowest category, we would have onsite instruction or students,” said Superintendent Steve Murley.
The moderate category would correlate to a blended model and the higher and highest levels would continue with offsite learning, he said.
Trustee Andrew Becker said he’s not interested in setting an unattainable metric.
“I worked to find a balance metric,” he said. “This is a vastly more restrictive metric, and I couldn’t vote for it. I don’t know if we will ever see under 10 per 100,000. We will never see five. We will probably stop testing for coronavirus because the pandemic will be declared over before we would even reach five per 100,000 in 14 days. Maybe we’ll hit 20 after there is a vaccine. It is getting right up there with the most restrictive juridictions in the country.”
Not everyone agreed the metrics were too restrictive.
“What we want doesn’t change what transmission rate the CDC finds safe,” said Trustee Dawn Smith. “I would argue that there are lots and lots of places in the country that are doing this better than we are here in Brown County. I don’t think that is an impossible metric. There will be places that can do that. If we don’t get to that level, I would argue that’s because of us as a community.”
The administration will bring back options to the board for a possible vote at its Oct. 12 meeting, based on feedback gathered at Monday’s meeting.
The board directed staff to focus on burden rate as the deciding metric in place of positivity rates and use the state’s dashboard instead of Brown County dashboard because it doesn’t include numbers from the Oneida Nation, therefore wouldn’t represent the entire district.