School District Announces Switch to Virtual Instruction


Sara Stanislawski

Wauwatosa West Social Studies teachers attend an all staff Zoom meeting with school district Superintendent Phil Ertl explaining the district’s current COVID-19 scorecard and answering questions from staff.

Vivienne Andersen, East Reporter

The Wauwatosa School District will shift all “Phase Into Learning” students from a two-day in-school hybrid model to full virtual instruction starting Monday, November 23 through Friday, December 4, 2020. 

In several schools we are one person away from not being able to operate,” stated an email sent to all district parents at 11:30 AM on Thursday, November 19. The high percentage of teachers working from home has made learning more difficult for students as well.

“Having teachers out of school has been challenging because it makes it harder to explain projects and assignments, and it also delays tests,” said Wauwatosa East sophomore Audrey Catlin. 

According to the email, the staff shortage comes as a result of confirmed COVID-19 cases and close contact incidents which result in lengthy quarantines. Issues including a lack of substitutes and technical difficulties have made recent hybrid learning with many teachers working from home confusing and inconsistent. The district has decided to shift all students to online learning for a higher quality of instruction and safer learning conditions.

“I think it will be very challenging to separate in-class work from homework. I think that teaching with examples in school is much more effective to most kids including me,” said Wauwatosa West senior Jordan Morrissey.

For some students, the Thursday morning announcement feels similar to the announcement on Friday, March 13, 2020. Students were told to take their supplies home but anticipated returning in person after Spring Break. The entire district was full virtual until the end of the year. This time, at least, students are prepared and know what to expect from virtual instruction.

“I was disappointed but not surprised. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. I don’t want to go virtual, but I understand why,” said Wauwatosa West sophomore Annelise Strand.

“It’s a smart decision,” said freshman Zoe Flint, who also understands and respects the district’s reasoning.

The administration of each school in the district is aware of how challenging virtual learning can be for students.

“Attendance does count. Virtual instruction is still school and if students need help, whether that be physically, emotionally, or academically, they should let us know,” said Wauwatosa West Principal Ebony Grice.

As of now, students and teachers in the Phase Into Learning model will return to their classrooms on Monday, December 7. 

In order to make sure that happens, the district has advised everyone to use their best judgment over the Thanksgiving holiday, which is not a new message as concern over increasing case rates in the state has risen.

“I’m disappointed that we can’t be in school because direct instruction is helpful, but it’s good from a covid standpoint as cases are rising in the area,” said Wauwatosa East sophomore Henry Dizard. Students, staff, and administration all seem to be on the same page heading into the next few weeks.


Sara Stanislawksi, Claire Guttormson, and Annabelle Wooster contributed to this report.