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Change of plans for St. Clair Shores students as COVID cases rise

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 18, 2020

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Editor’s note: As the St. Clair Shores Sentinel went to press, local districts were continuing to monitor and update their plans. Please check with your school district for the latest information.

ST. CLAIR SHORES — While students at South Lake High School never returned to face-to-face learning, students at Lakeview High School and Lake Shore High School had to pivot to remote learning for a few weeks as state health authorities ordered a three week pause on many activities with cases of COVID-19 on the rise.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ emergency order of Nov. 15 limits indoor residential gatherings to two households, restricts bars and restaurants to outdoor dining, carryout and delivery only, prohibits group fitness classes — although gyms can remain open for individual exercise — closes casinos and movie theaters, prohibits organized sports and restricts colleges and high schools to remote learning only, with no in-person classes.

The order took effect Nov. 18 and was set to run through Dec. 8.

South Lake Schools had already decided to maintain remote learning with its middle school and high school students at a special meeting Nov. 4.

Superintendent Ted VonHiltmayer reports that the South Lake Board of Education voted to keep high school and middle school students online “for the foreseeable future” at a special meeting Nov. 4.

“This motion was based on recent data showing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases across the state,” VonHiltmayer said in an email interview.

As of Nov. 15, Michigan had a seven-day average of 512 cases per million people, which was five times higher than the case rate on Oct. 1. Test positivity has increased from 3.2% in early October to 12% on Nov. 13. The state acknowledges that testing has increased 78% since Oct. 1, but test positivity has increased 225% during the same time frame and all regions in Michigan now have seven-day averages of more than 150 cases per million residents.

Local high schools had just two days to adapt to the new order and make changes, if necessary.

Lake Shore High School tweeted a new schedule for students Nov. 16. Instead of attending in-person classes on alternating days, students will have three required live classes per day where attendance will be taken and office hours where teachers are available for the opposite classes, on a daily rotating schedule.

Superintendents from Lake Shore Public Schools and Lakeview Public Schools were unavailable for comment before press time Nov. 17.

In South Lake, the decision of whether to keep middle school and high school students entirely online or move to a hybrid model will be made at each board meeting, with the board and district administration looking at what is happening in other local school districts and with the case counts of the novel coronavirus.

“We can make a fact-based decision, based upon the information we have,” South Lake Board of Education Trustee Jason Miller said. “There’s not a timeline set when we’re going to bring them back and see.”

In its press release, the state said Michigan has seen fewer outbreaks associated with elementary and middle school students, and younger children are most in need of in-person instruction. In-person schooling for kindergarten through 8th grade is allowed to continue if it can be done with strong mitigation, including mask requirements.

As the parent of a fifth grader and a ninth grader, Miller said he has students experiencing both ways of learning.

“My youngest is at Elmwood. He’s doing well in school. My oldest ... in high school, he’s doing good online,” Miller said. “Obviously, being a parent I have to ensure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to, and there’s times I have to remind him a little bit about paying attention and focusing on getting the required work done, but I think that’s a fairly reasonable struggle among many parents right now.”

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