Multiple school board members face recall efforts over decision on virtual learning

MIDDLETON, Wis. — Multiple school board members are facing recall efforts over their decision to opt for virtual learning this fall.

Parents behind the efforts said they feel this is the last resort to have their voices heard.

“It is so much more than an inconvenience,” said Angela Rachidi, whose kids go to an elementary school in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District. “Our children are struggling, parents are struggling, and that means the community at large is struggling.”

Rachidi said her situation is better than most, and still, it’s not great. The parent of three elementary-aged kids and her husband can work from home, but she knows many who aren’t as lucky.

“I have heard from so many parents that are just struggling,” she said. “They are leaving their children home, unsupervised because they have no other choice.”

That pushed her to what she calls a last resort – a recall effort against two of the school board members who voted to do virtual schooling this year: Bob Hesselbein and Minza Karim.

Both board members are sticking by their decision.

“We considered the risk to our students, to our educators and staff and greater community and felt it was unwise to open schools with coronavirus rates increasing,” Hesselbein said.

Kirim said she didn’t think the district’s plan was safe enough, and she felt it placed too big of a burden on teachers to simultaneously juggle in person and virtual instruction on top of added risks.

“I don’t want to take that huge responsibility to reopen the school and have family or families get sick,” Karim said. “I don’t think that was the right choice.”

Doctors know the decision is no easy task.

“There are so many factors that go into that planning about safe return to schools,” said Dr. Aimee Becker, the chief medical officer at UW Health. “I think the important aspect of that is that schools have had a good plan from the beginning, and then they have a plan to monitor and track and adjust accordingly.”

Parents in multiple districts said they felt the hybrid plan did just that.

In Mount Horeb, a vast majority of parents sided against virtual only, according to public records, but the board still chose that direction. That’s led to a recall effort there too.

Rachidi said her main goal from this is to have a learning model that works for more families, and if the board can do that, she would drop this effort, but board members said this is about health and safety, and they aren’t changing their minds, even if they lose their jobs over it.