Berkley Schools to allow students option of in-person instruction

Ferndale decides to wait on decision

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 26, 2021

 The Berkley School District will begin allowing students and families the option to return to school in person starting in February. At the end of every day, custodians disinfect areas and surfaces where people have been in the district’s buildings.

The Berkley School District will begin allowing students and families the option to return to school in person starting in February. At the end of every day, custodians disinfect areas and surfaces where people have been in the district’s buildings.

Photo provided by Jessica Stilger

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FERNDALE/BERKLEY — Students in the Berkley School District will have the option to return to their respective buildings beginning in February.

The Berkley School District’s Board of Education voted Jan. 11 to allow students across all grades the option to return to in-person instruction. It will be the first time students return to classrooms in almost a year, since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March 2020.

Elementary school students will be allowed to return starting Feb. 1. Middle school students will be able to return Feb. 8, and high school students can return Feb. 22.

The district originally decided to approve its Learning Plan Update in October, and scheduled a November in-person return for students. However, after the risk determination from the Oakland County Health Division’s Guidance for In-Person Instruction was downgraded from a D to an E, the plan to return to school was postponed.

Director of Teaching, Learning and Technology Scott Francis said the district is speaking with officials from the Oakland County Health Department weekly and have been told that in-person instruction in schools is safe as long as everyone is practicing social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation measures.

“With those recommendations, with the numbers really trending down in our favor, that’s why we felt like now is the time for our students to return, for our staff to return,” he said. “We have the confidence and faith in our staff to keep them safe in that learning environment.”

For families who choose to have their child attend school in person, elementary school students will come back for five half-days. This means half of each class will come in person for half the school day and the other half of the class will come in the second half of the day, reducing the number of students in a classroom to meet social distance recommendations.

When students are not in the classroom, they will have asynchronous schoolwork, which is work that is either recorded or accessible through the district’s learning management system that students have been using all year.

With middle and high school students, there will be a hybrid model for their return to in-person instruction. Students returning to the buildings will be divided into two groups. One group will attend in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other group will come in on Thursdays and Fridays. When it’s not their day to be the building, the students will livestream into the classroom. Wednesdays will be a day for asynchronous schoolwork.

The district has been conducting a survey with families to learn how many students will be returning to the schools. According to Francis, 72.6% of elementary students across the district’s five schools, 67% of middle school students from its two schools, and 59% of high school students will be coming back.

In order to monitor any potential COVID-19 cases, Francis stated, there will be a monitoring app system called Clear To Go in place that asks families standard questions before anyone comes into a building. The same will be asked of school staff.

If someone tests positive, the district will follow Oakland County Health guidelines. Those and other COVID-19 related materials can be found at www.oakgov.com/covid/resources/education/Pages/k-12.aspx.

“Oakland County Health has clear guidance on that and so there’s different circumstances, if people are testing positive or people being around people who’ve tested positive,” Francis said. “We are following exactly what the Oakland County Health steps of process (are).”


Ferndale
On the same day Berkley voted to allow an in-person option, Ferndale Public Schools’ Board of Education also had a meeting to discuss the same topic.

Based on where everything is at with their understanding of coronavirus numbers and the vaccine rollout, Superintendent Dania Bazzi said the board held off specifying an exact return date for students to have an in-person instruction option.

“(We) want to continue to monitor the information available before making a final determination about a return date,” she said.

Bazzi said Oakland County’s metric still is at a level E, which was a cause of concern for them, as well as the lack of accessibility for people to get a vaccine.

“Those two things made us pause in terms of specifying a date,” she said. “Things could change as more information becomes available to us and as the numbers improve, hopefully. This will be a discussion point at every Board of Education meeting, because we understand the importance of trying to get our students back to some sort of in-person learning.”

Bazzi does believe there is a possibility they can reverse this decision at a later date, but felt the district doesn’t want to get hung up on a particular date and that a decision will be made by the Board of Education when everyone feels comfortable and it’s safe for staff and students to return.

The superintendent also felt it’s a possibility — if it gets to be too late in the school year — that they will continue virtual learning until the year ends, but she said that’s also something where they’re not at the point yet to solidify a decision date.

“I still hold out hope that at some point we’ll be able to return,” she said. “I’m thinking with the global pandemic, we’re taking it week by week and really making sure that we analyze the data available to us as it relates to COVID numbers and the rollout of the vaccine, and that’s what we’ll continue to use to make our decisions and recommendations.”

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