Birmingham school board OKs plan to return to in-person learning Jan. 11

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published December 17, 2020

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BIRMINGHAM — The Birmingham Public Schools Board of Education voted 4-3 to approve a timeline to return students to a hybrid in-person learning format beginning Jan. 11.

According to a presentation made to the board during its regularly scheduled meeting Dec. 15, the plan will be contingent on no further restrictions instituted by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, and no drastic spikes in COVID-19 cases noted ahead of the return date. Data from the Oakland County Health Division will be reviewed on Wednesday, Jan. 6, to confirm those stipulations.

The first groups back to an in-person learning environment will be pre-kindergarten to eighth grade students. Students at Birmingham Covington School —  a districtwide grade three-eight school of choice — are expected to return to a hybrid in-person/virtual schedule on that date.

The board recommended through its vote that, on Jan. 19, ninth grade through 12th grade students will join a hybrid in-person learning format, should it be allowed by the state. Special education students will be provided schedules and details specific to their programs.

The district is also recommending a shift in schedules for Birmingham Covington School, middle and high schools from the previous morning/afternoon cohorts to a format with alternating days. For example, Cohort A might attend Mondays and Thursdays, and Cohort B might attend Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays would serve as a virtual learning day for all students.

However, administrators said they’re aware that not all families are comfortable with returning their students to a classroom. Commitments made by families this fall through March 12 will be honored, and a wait list is being maintained by the district for those requesting a virtual placement at the elementary level, also known as Birmingham Virtual Academy. Staffing continues to be a challenge, however, to meet the changing needs for families during the pandemic, in large part to many instructors choosing not to return to work over  pandemic-related safety concerns.

Middle and high school students and Birmingham Covington School students have the option to live-stream into classes as a remote alternative to in-person/hybrid learning.

Anne Cron, the director of communications and family engagement for BPS, said that the district is using more than just case numbers to weigh decisions about in-person learning going into the new year, including student emotional health and well-being.

“Our priority has been and continues to be a safe return of students and staff to the classroom while providing strong virtual learning options during this pandemic,” Cron said in an email. “Considering the feedback we received from stakeholders, including local medical professionals and union leadership, we are focusing on returning students to the classroom and keeping students in school as a priority. … We know there may be the need to temporarily close classes, programs, levels or buildings while COVID-19 still remains a threat, but (we) believe the safety protocols we have in place are effective and strong.”

When the board discussed returning to a hybrid in-person model after the holiday break, Board of Education members Brian Jennings, Jennifer Rass, Adrienne Young and Nicole McKinney were in favor of the move.

Board members Kim Whitman, Lori Ajlouny and Amy Hochkammer dissented, in some cases saying the proposed return model wasn’t ambitious enough with just two days of in-person learning for Birmingham Covington School, middle and high schools students.

“I want maximum academic face-to-face educational experience for our kids, and I don’t know that one day (of) virtual learning is going to provide that,” Ajlouny said.

For updates on the Birmingham Public Schools district plan to return to in-person learning, as well as other COVID-19 status updates in the district, visit birmingham.k12.mi.us, where you can also view the entire return plan under the “Community” tab on the site’s homepage.



Bloomfield Hills Schools to present plan

On Jan. 7, the Bloomfield Hills Schools district will hold a special meeting during which Superintendent Pat Watson will present a plan to return to in-person learning.
“I plan to provide a staffing update and share proposed phase-in dates for a return to in-person learning,” Watson said in an email to the Eagle.
For more information on that meeting and other COVID-19 status updates in the district, visit bloomfield.org.

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