(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s two largest school districts will start the new school year with empty classrooms. 

Milwaukee and Madison schools last week both announced they will start the 2020-2021 school year with virtual classes. 

Both school districts are pinning their decisions on safety. 

“We have to be safe,” Milwaukee Superintendent Keith Posley said Thursday. “We can make up school hours for our students to make up their lessons. But we can’t bring a lost life back.”

“There can be no margin of error in our decisions to keep students, staff as well as our entire community safe,” interim Madison Superintendent Jane Belmore said in a statement Friday. 

Milwaukee’s plan is a phased-in start to the school year. Posley said students will learn at home from Sept. 1 until at least Oct. 1, then slowly transition into classrooms. That could mean as little as two days a week in school in October. Posley said the hope is to eventually bring all MPS students back for a full school week. 

Madison students will learn from home until at least Halloween. Belmore said the plan in MMS schools is to learn from home for at least the first quarter. 

“As local cases continue to surge, and the ongoing analysis of public health data to provide guidance on how to implement requirements they expect schools to have in place to open safely, has left us with limited options,” Belmore added. 

Posley said some families in Milwaukee may be disappointed to start school from home. 

“We know students want to go back to school. Educators want to go back to school. Parents and families want their children back in school,” Posley said. 

There are questions about whether both Milwaukee and Madison schools can adequately teach kids at home. Both schools were criticized in the spring for their slow starts to distance learning, and the lack of assignments for some students. 

There are also questions about teachers in both districts. The teachers unions in both Milwaukee and Madison don’t want to rush back into classrooms. They say students should stay at home until there are two weeks of zero positive coronavirus tests in either city. 

School starts in Wisconsin on Sept. 1. 

Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.