Berkley to let elementary students return to in-person instruction

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published October 26, 2020

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FERNDALE/BERKLEY — The Berkley School District’s Board of Education has voted to allow elementary school students to go back to in-person instruction starting in November.

At the Oct. 19 meeting, the board voted 6-1 to approve its 2020-21 Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan. This will allow students in transitional kindergarten through second grade to return to school in person Nov. 9, and third through fifth graders to return Nov. 11. Categorical special education program students also will be allowed to have in-person teaching.

Back in the summer when the school district moved to start the school year online, Berkley Schools Superintendent Dennis McDavid said they did so because they didn’t feel like they had enough information and data to move forward with in-person instruction. As there were districts that did choose to reopen, McDavid wanted to see how they did with their reopenings first.

“There’s been some cases in schools, but they’ve been by and large managed and have not caused the kind of disruption (that was feared),” he said. “There’ve been some schools that have shut down for a period of time — a week or so — but, overall, they haven’t had the kind of effect that we thought that they might have,” he said. “So looking at that, looking at the information we’re getting from Oakland County health, that all said that we should be able to get our kids in and keep them and our staff safe.”

Parents still will have the option to keep their children at home to learn virtually if they wish.

McDavid said the district will continue to evaluate this decision as time goes on, even from now until the first day that students will be allowed back. The superintendent called the situation “fluid” and one in which they’re trying to “plan for every contingency.”

“A part of what we’ve said to our community and our parents is that at any time, whether there are cases in one school or cases across the district or cases in the county that would require us to close, we’re gonna have to be nimble enough to close and move everyone back to online learning,” he said. “We hope that doesn’t happen, but that’s a real possibility because none of us know where this virus is going.”

For the time being, middle and high schoolers will continue to learn virtually from home. McDavid said the district wanted to see how the transition went with elementary students first before adding secondary students.

“We also think that we started with the elementary students because it’s much easier to keep them in cohorts,” he said. “We can keep a second grade class together, but at the middle and high school, students are switching classes all the time. … The exposure and contact become much more complicated.”

Meanwhile, Ferndale Public Schools has yet to make an official decision whether or not students will be back in school full-time. The district decided in the summer to move classes online, along with some opportunities for in-person instruction.

Ferndale Public Schools Director of Communications and Pupil Services Bill Good said the current plan is to stay virtual through the end of the first semester, which comes to a close in mid-January.

On Nov. 2, the Board of Education will meet to discuss the current state of the district’s education during the COVID-19 era.

“At that meeting, we’ll do a complete presentation to the Board of Education, with all the data, any academic studies there have been as far as spread of cases within school communities, because now there’s a whole bunch of information now that so many districts across the country and across the world have gone back,” said Good.

“In the near future, they’ll make a decision on whether or not we’ll come back prior to the beginning of second semester, at second semester or at some other later date,” he continued.