MILWAUKEE — Students in Milwaukee and Madison public schools will begin the new school year online with plans to eventually return to the classroom once the coronavirus abates.

The Milwaukee Public Schools board approved a three-phase plan Thursday night that begins with virtual instruction, then moves to a combination of online and in-person learning and returning students to the classroom in phase three.

Madison Metropolitan School District announced Friday that that due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in the city of Madison and Dane County, the district will start school online.

MMSD has been preparing three options for the new school year: all-virtual learning, all in-person learning, and a blend of both in-person and virtual. Superintendent Jane Belmore said that moving forward, decisions will be made on a quarterly basis considering all three options.

"MMSD will continue its planning for a return to in-person learning as soon as it is determined to be safe for students and staff to do so," Belmore said. "Recognizing this is a community effort, we will be providing as much advance notice to families as possible so that they can plan accordingly for things like childcare and work schedules."

Milwaukee's plan calls for students to begin online instruction on Aug. 17 or Sept. 1, depending on their school calendar. The virtual phase is projected to last 30 to 45 school days, after which students would move to the next phase and then fully return to classes once it's deemed to be safe.

MPS administrators are working on a $90 million plan once students begin to return, including personal protective equipment, spreading out classrooms and putting social distancing measures in place.

Milwaukee Superintendent Keith Posley said the plan will remain fluid depending on how the pandemic unfolds over the coming months.

"We know students want to go back to school. Educators want to go back to school. Parents and families want their children back in school. But we have to be safe," he said. "We can make up school hours for our students to make up their lessons. But we can't bring a lost life back."

The board heard from parents, some who support the plan and others who objected, saying they would have to choose between their jobs and their children's education, the Journal Sentinel reported.