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Back-to-school news conference with Brown Co. community leaders

Posted at 11:08 AM, Aug 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-05 19:32:09-04

BROWN Co. (NBC 26) — Community leaders in Brown County took part in a back-to-school news conference in front of City Stadium Gates at East High School Wednesday.

The news conference focused on the community's role in the effort to keep schools open.

"We know everyone wants to get back to what 'normal' used to look like, right?" asked Howard-Suamico School District Superintendent Damian LaCroix. "We all want to see our students back in our classrooms each and every day. But this year, because of the pandemic, it's just not possible to go back to the way things used to be. At least, not right now."

Although each district or school was to make its own decision for its students, new Green Bay Public School District Superintendent Stephen Murley explained that there was no real stand-alone decisions.

"Whatever each district decides for their return to school, be it virtual or in-person, that decision impacts a wider community of people," said Murley. "While we may have different reopening plans, there are commonalities. Particularly when it comes to what we all need from the community."

"Tough decisions are being made every single day in our community," said GRACE President Kim Desotell. "It's very important that schools are responsive and responsible to our constituents."

Desotell continued by asking everyone to take direction, advice, and guidance from health experts such as the state Department of Health Services and CDC.

Local health experts also weighed in on the safety concerns of students, teachers and staff returning to school in the fall.

"While [superintendents] want education to get back to normal, we are living in a time that is anything but normal," said Prevea Health President and CEO, Dr. Ashok Rai.

"As much as this pandemic has put a strain on all of our individual lives, its also brought out the best in this community," added Bellin Health President and CEO Chris Woleske.

Woleske explained that Bellin, Prevea, HSHS, and Aurora have all collaborated with schools to help with the reopening process. She said 25 in-person school assessments had been done by Bellin alone.

"I think we all can agree there are many benefits to the kids getting back to school, and it is something that we all want, but we need to mitigate the risks," continued Woleske. "The community and continuing the work of flattening the curve is going to be critical so that healthcare can continue to be available to the community and meet the needs of the entire population's health and well-being concerns."

Dr. Rai applauds the districts for following health recommendations and guidelines.

"Schools that return in-person are busy changing the facilities and altering the structures, things like installing signage and floor markings to remind us to stay six feet apart" said Desotell. "Some schools may, like businesses, elect to take temperature when someone enters the building."

Camera Corner Connecting Point CEO Rick Chernick said he is urging all Brown County businesses to start thinking of ways to help their employees.

"Many businesses and their employees have children at school, at home now, and this creates a problem," said Chernick. "I believe many parents are now discovering that they are not as skilled - nor do they have the tools, nor do they have the patience - to teach their children full-time and continue to raise them as well as possibly have a job. We also know education without safety is not going to happen."

Chernick explained his understanding of how some parents are not able to work from home, and those that do may not see a normal 40 hour work week.

"As long as you do your job we will be flexible as an employer and we encourage other employers to do the same," said Chernick.

"The Packers are supportive of the community-driven approach to schools reopening," said Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy. "Like the schools, we have instituted safety measures at our facility in an effort to help our various businesses reopen and get the community up-and-running again. Just recently our players have returned a little over a week ago."

Murphy said he is confident that as a community "we can get through this together."

"We know the importance of school and education," continued Murphy. "These students really represent our future and it is vital we keep the educational system up-and-running, whatever that might look like this fall. Our children and our families depend on it."

"We stress to school districts, just as we stress to all members of our community, there are only a few things we can do right now to mitigate the spread of this disease," said Dr. Rai. "This includes physical distancing, making sure everyone wears a mask when indoors and when the distance of six feet from others cannot be maintained, and then making sure that when someone is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 that they are tested, so that if they are positive we can work quickly to stop the spread."