Gov. Tony Evers says he is leaving it to individual school districts on whether they should have in-person classes this fall as Republican legislators continue to press him on the issue.
Schools are due to reopen soon as Wisconsin and the nation fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Responding to a claim from GOP Sen. Steve Nass of Whitewater that the governor would order schools not to resume in-person classes, Evers told WTMJ-TV Monday night: “There’s no secret plan out there.”
During a Tuesday conference call with reporters, Evers said he has been in touch with school districts across the state and is “pleased with conversations” the school leaders are having with their communities.
“The process is going well, so I’m looking forward to having further conversations and seeing how things go going forward,” he said. “Clearly, the virus is not in a position right now to say exactly what it’s going to be like September 1st.”
He added that if people “want a successful school year” they should wear face coverings and maintain social distance.
“Let’s get together, be good about this issue and have a good school year,” he said.
Milwaukee and some other school districts have decided on their own to start the semester with online classes, while other districts plan in-person education.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau vowed that he and other Republicans would “remain vigilant” on the issue of reopening schools and urged citizens “to keep the pressure on the governor.”
“I appreciate the governor’s statements that support in-person instruction, but actions speak louder than words,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “Earlier this spring, the governor flip-flopped on whether to issue a stay-at-home order. He flip-flopped on whether to move the April 7th Election. I’m fearful that he will cave to pressures from liberal groups and backtrack once again.”
Fitzgerald has taken a high-profile stance against the governor’s mandate on wearing face masks and has sought to bring the Senate back into session to eliminate the requirement.
Fitzgerald is running in next week’s GOP primary in the 5th Congressional District.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has so far not commented on whether he’ll bring the Assembly into session to overturn Evers’ order on face masks.
Evers dismissed Fitzgerald’s complaints about flip-flopping.
“I don’t think anybody out there is kind of hanging on for dear life to determine what Scott Fitzgerald is going to say next about this,” the governor said. “I think they’re actually doing things on a local level and I’m very appreciative of those efforts.”
Evers, who was the state superintendent of public instruction before he was elected governor in 2018, also defended his plan to allow school districts to decide on the best path forward.
“The virus is every place in the state of Wisconsin,” he said. “We have schools every place in the state of Wisconsin. The difference is this: all school districts look different.”
He said there are a lot of school districts in the state with small class sizes, which “already have the opportunity to keep kids socially distanced.”