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Though students are excited to get back to class, some say GBAPS' plan to return is 'not acceptable'

Posted at 7:31 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 20:32:08-05

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC26) -- Many Green Bay students haven't seen a classroom in nearly a year.

Second grader Rylee Larson is one of them. She's excited for that to change.

"I want to [go back to school] because then I can see all my friends and my teachers and the people in my classroom," Larson, a student at Leonardo da Vinci School, said.

On Wednesday, the Green Bay Area Public School District announced a first wave (Head Start to grade 5, grades 6 and 9) of students will return in person on March 29. Every other grade will have the chance to return on April 5 in an A-B cohort model, which students in fifth and ninth grades will follow as well.

But parents we talked to say the news is bittersweet.

"Waiting until April 5 is too far away because now we have another two months at least," mother of two Heather Piontek said. "It's in the middle of winter right now too and our facilities can open and can operate."

The board has approved a motion to bring kids back three weeks after the vaccine is made available to teachers, which the district hopes occurs near march first. But some members also aren't happy.

"I believe there's too much potential for the vaccine date to change and I think waiting at least a few days would be a justifiable thing to do just to learn more," board treasurer Andrew Becker said.

"That [date] is not acceptable at all because it's still not enough for the things that we actually know," board member Rhonda Sitnikau said.

Some board members say they'd like to get back sooner, but the current plan is sufficient.

"Rhonda voted in favor of that motion and I know we were all hoping that it would be sooner than this," member Dawn Smith said. "I don't think the administration did anything wrong. What they did was they’re implementing a plan based off the motion the board passed on Jan. 19."

And the board's president says a potential date to get those vaccines still isn't clear.

"Teachers in many states around us are already vaccinated with both of their shots, so it's embarrassing and frustrating that Wisconsin is in the place that we are," Eric Vanden Heuvel said. "I don't think any of the board members are excited about that process, but it's also out of our control."

Some parents don't think the district will follow through with the plan.

"I just don’t have faith in our leadership right now," Piontek said. "I would like to see our board hold our superintendent accountable and I feel like he’s the weak spot and he’s not really willing to crack here."

For some students, going back to school, despite the challenges, would be a welcome return.

"If we go to school, I would be really happy but I'd really like it every day...everything to be how it was," Larson said.