By Shereen Siewert

Wausau School Board President Tricia Zunker issued a formal statement Monday responding to controversy surrounding the district’s decision to begin school virtually this fall.

Zunker, who is also a candidate for Congress, joined the majority of school board members who on July 27 voted in favor of a virtual start. The board will revisit the decision monthly.

The decision prompted members of a “Parents for Wausau Schools Reopening” Facebook group to call for protests and recalls.

Zunker issued the following statement on Monday:

A global pandemic brings innumerable challenges. Our goal has been to be able to fully re-enter school buildings as soon as possible. Yet our challenge as your school board has been to determine the best course for the start of the new school year in a way that ensures the safety and well-being of all students, staff, families and our community.

Until that time arises, the Wausau Board of Education made the decision to commence the school year virtually.  Please look for communications from school district administration next week in regards to virtual learning for the fall start as well as communications regarding critical steps to building re-opening.

Discussion and planning for the new school year began in June with the hopeful goal that we would fully reopen the school buildings in September. However, knowing that we are faced with many unknowns, the administration worked diligently and developed three different plans through the work of thirteen subcommittees and over 100 staff members. Those plans continued to be modified as new challenges were identified, more information gained and circumstances changed.

We express our gratitude to our superintendent, district administrators and many subcommittee members for your hard work to ensure Wausau School District has a successful start of the year; your tireless and creative efforts to ensure that all students and staff are safe and feel supported this fall; and your commitment to ensure our district mission to advance student learning, achievement and success is met in the development and implementation of each possible plan.  

We want to thank our teachers and staff for your commitment to our students; your ingenuity and adaptability in the spring when we quickly moved to mandated virtual learning; and your unceasing dedication to ensure our students receive the best possible education in the upcoming school year, regardless of the modality of instruction. 

We also extend our immense gratitude to students and families for your patience, flexibility and support as we navigate commencing a new school year amid a global health crisis.

We know some parents, guardians and community members are frustrated by the decision and we hear your concerns. We want our students and staff safely back in the buildings as soon as possible. To that end, we encourage strict compliance with the state-wide mask mandate, safe social distancing practices and frequent handwashing.  The community as a whole must take responsibility to help reduce the spread of contagion so that school buildings can safely reopen.

There may be more questions than answers for the moment as we navigate the start of the new school year through this pandemic, but one thing is certain: We will get through this together.

Read more about the board’s decision and parent reaction here.