Attention Readers
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, C & G Newspapers has temporarily suspended its print publications. We look forward to resuming our print operation in the coming weeks. In the meantime, continue to find local news on our website and look for us on Facebook and Twitter. We hope you stay healthy and safe.

Berkley, Ferndale school districts react to closings amid coronavirus pandemic

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published March 15, 2020

File photo by Deb Jacques

Advertisement

FERNDALE/BERKLEY — After the number of presumed positive cases of COVID-19 reached 12 in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced March 12 that all K-12 school buildings will be closed in the state from March 16 through April 5.

The hope with the shutdown, which includes public, private and boarding schools, is that it will help slow the spread of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. 

“This is a necessary step to protect our kids, our families, and our overall public health,” Whitmer said in a statement. “I am working with partners across state government to ensure educators, parents, and students have the support they need during this time, and to ensure our children who rely on school for meals have access to food. I know this will be a tough time, but we’re doing this to keep the most people we can safe. I urge everyone to make smart choices during this time and to do everything they can to protect themselves and their families.” 

The school districts in Ferndale and Berkley now are trying to figure out what to do next.

 

Ferndale Public Schools

Ferndale Public Schools Director of Communications and Pupil Services Bill Good said that the staff has been working through tutorials to learn how they will be teaching students online.

“Our No. 1 concern is the health and safety of our students and staff,” he said. “We’re not health care experts, so we follow the advice and guidance of health officials in the state.” 

Good continued to say the district is working through logistical issues to determine its next steps and to get answers to people in the community who have questions.

One big question is how the closure will affect the end of the school year. Most schools in Ferndale will end their year on Friday, June 12. Good said the district was waiting on guidance from Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Education on how to deal with this issue.

“We received an email (March 12) from the state superintendent, (Michael Rice), that just basically said they’re committed to giving us guidance on a number of issues. … Attendance days and how it impacts the end of the year were one of the things that was mentioned,” he said.

While the school buildings are shut down, Good noted that the district is not shut down and anyone who has questions about what is going on can reach out via phone, email or social media, and the district will do its best to answer as soon as possible. He also said the district hopes to reopen April 13, as its spring break runs from April 6-10.

On its Facebook page, Ferndale Public Schools posted information regarding food services, which included free breakfast and lunch for all children starting March 17.

“We will be serving both breakfast and lunch for students or families to take home Monday-Friday,” the post reads. It also states that on Fridays, breakfast and lunch for Saturday and Sunday also will be available for pickup.

Drive-thru pickup will be available at Ferndale High School, Ferndale Upper Elementary, University High School and Tri-County Education Center. Any student or family can pick up food from any location. The drive-thru pickup at each location will be in the student drop-off circle from 10 a.m. to noon.

The district stated that children ages 18 years old and younger eat for free; children do not need to be present for a parent to pick up their meals; and children do not need to be enrolled in Ferndale Public Schools. 

“The food service stuff is open to any children — district residents or not,” Good said. “They don’t have to be Ferndale Schools students to get that food.”

Anyone with questions can call Carrie Hall, director of dining with FPS, at (248) 586-8703, or email carrie.hall@ferndaleschools.org.

 

Berkley School District

The Berkley School District will be looking to open later than the date given by Whitmer.

The district already had the week of April 6-10 scheduled for spring break. Because of this, Berkley Schools Director of Communications Jessica Stilger said the decision was made to hopefully reopen the district’s buildings a week later, on Monday, April 13.

In the meantime, she said, the district’s leadership has been talking to all of the administrative teams and central office teams to figure out what learning will look like and what the learning expectations are during this pandemic.

Other questions Stilger listed included, “How and what are we distributing for food for our families who need food assistance?” and “How do we make sure we get all these things communicated to our community in a timely fashion and in a way that they’ll be able to receive it?”

Stilger said the district has been reaching out to families to ask about their internet and device access at home, and what the district can do to support them if they don’t have access. 

“We are sending computers home with students, sending laptops home with students (March 13) for families who requested one,” she said. “We are trying to calm some fears today in our classrooms and model good hygiene, but make sure everybody knows that we’ll get through this.”

When asked how the coronavirus closures will affect the end of the school year in Berkley, which like Ferndale was scheduled to end June 12, Stilger too said that’s an answer the district doesn’t have at this time.

“A lot of the questions we can’t answer right now are because we’re waiting on some guidance from the Michigan Department of Education,” she said. “Questions like, ‘Will the school year be extended?’ … ‘Will the time that we’re learning online count towards the school year?’ ‘Will we need to extend our school year?’ ‘Will we need to add days or minutes?’ Things like that, we don’t have answers to yet.”

Stilger hopes to communicate those answers with the public soon.

In working with the district’s food service partner, Aramark, the Berkley School District started March 16 distributing two meals a day — breakfast and lunch — for any child under 18 in the community. 

The meal distribution sites are located at Anderson Middle School, where food pickup is at the back parking lot door behind the building; and Norup International School, where pickup can be found at the multipurpose room doors.

Meal distribution times will be 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. The district stated both meals will be available during both time slots, and there would be no need to come twice. Other pertinent information listed included that meals will be distributed in a grab-and-go style pickup, families will take both meals per child at the same time, the meals — one breakfast and one lunch — will be available to any child in the community, no questions asked, and on Fridays, families will be able to take enough meals for the weekend for each child.

If families need any other food assistance, the district is encouraging people to reach out to Gleaners Food Bank, Forgotten Harvest and Yad Ezra.

 

Hazel Park Public Schools

Over in Hazel Park’s school district, which includes parts of Ferndale, free breakfast and lunch will continue to be provided seven days a week through April 6.

Pickups are Mondays through Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Hazel Park High, 23400 Hughes Ave. in Hazel Park; Webb Elementary, 2100 Woodward Heights Boulevard in Ferndale; and United Oaks Elementary, 1001 E. Harry Ave. in Hazel Park. 

On Friday, the person picking up the meals has the option of picking up three meals per student to accommodate weekend meals.

Amy Kruppe, the superintendent of Hazel Park Public Schools, said that she has directed her staff to check their emails daily and to actively reach out to students once a week to provide any needed enrichment and emotional support. 

“All of our amazing teachers and ancillary staff developed work for our students that can be downloaded or was picked up on March 16,” Kruppe said. “Our staff worked hard to make sure we gave work for our students to keep their skills fresh and sharp.”

The work resources are available on the district’s website, hazelparkschools.org.

“We will also be giving students apps to try on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages throughout the week,” Kruppe added.

She said that at press time, it was not clear whether school districts will need to make up lost time due to the closures, and that this decision will be made by the state Legislature and governor. 

“If I were a betting woman, with all of the schools across the country that have to be closed, my guess would be that time will not be made up,” Kruppe said. “With all of the changes that are happening minute by minute, we do not know what will be happening next.” 

In the meantime, as a safety precaution, staff will not be reentering the buildings during the closure, and administration will be working at home as well with daily teleconferencing. The custodial, transportation and maintenance staff are conducting a deep cleaning, following guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The district offers families several ways to stay up to date. There is a COVID-19 button on the district’s website featuring Frequently Asked Questions; there is a “Talk With Us” button where one can sign up for news alerts pertaining to the district; there is a home-based resources button with folders containing study-at-home enrichment materials for all grades, plus web-based resources that are updated daily; and one can reach the central district office by calling (248) 658-5200 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Administration personnel are having calls forwarded to their cellphones.

The district’s community representative, Lisa Chrouch-Johnson, will also be checking her messages during the closure. One can reach her by calling (248) 658-5525 or by emailing lisa.chrouch-johnson@hazelparkschools.org.

Staff Writers Maria Allard and Andy Kozlowski contributed to this report.

Advertisement