Educators lay out back-to-school plan for secondary students

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 20, 2020

GROSSE POINTES — Face-to-face learning, both hybrid and daily in-person classes, for local districts has ceased temporarily since the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a new emergency COVID-19 order effective Nov. 18.

The latest emergency order of the MDHHS, scheduled for three weeks, is an effort to curb the increasing COVID-19 infection rates in the state. Among the order’s several restrictions is a mandate that high school students must return to virtual learning during the three-week period.

The middle school and high school students in the Grosse Pointe Public School System have been learning remotely since the beginning of the school year.

Last month, the elementary school students returned to in-person learning in a hybrid format, which combines face-to-face instruction with online learning on certain days and reduces the number of students in a building. However, because of an increase of COVID-19 cases in the district, plus Wayne County having a Level E highest-risk rating, all GPPSS students returned to remote learning Nov. 9 for two weeks and possibly longer, depending on impending decisions from administrators.

School officials are still looking toward the future though, and at the Nov. 9 Board of Education meeting, the school board approved 6-0 the GPPSS Secondary Return to Face to Face Instruction. Board member Judy Gafa was absent.

Although an official date has not yet been set, educators have a hybrid face-to-face plan in place. The document is subject to change based on feedback, further governmental guidance and new information regarding local COVID-19 data.

According to the plan, the bell schedule is 8:15 a.m. to 3:13 p.m. for fifth through eighth grade students in middle school. Students will be divided, primarily by alphabet A-K and L-Z, into two groups identified as Group A and Group B. Group A will attend face-to-face learning on Mondays and Thursdays, while Group B will attend on Tuesdays and Fridays.

“I think some important things to point out is that learning is going to look different in person,” Parcells Middle School Principal Daniel Hartley said. “We are going to have to follow distancing guidelines. There are certain activities that we can’t do or maybe not do as well.”

The face-to-face plan for high school students in grades nine through 12 also will have students divided into two groups, “A” and “B,” by alphabet A-K and L-Z. Per the plan, students will attend high school on half days — in either the a.m. or p.m. group with lunch off campus.

Group A students will attend in-person learning Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in the morning. Group B will attend in-person learning on the same days but in the afternoon only.

“We really feel that the half day model, due to our size in the high school, really supports the academic success as well as safety,” said Katy Vernier, one of the Grosse Pointe North High School assistant principals. “Our students would be able to touch base with approximately half of their teachers every day, so they would have that contact but it would be in a half-day model.”

Both middle school and high school groups will have Zoom-based instruction on Wednesdays. According to the plan, students with individualized education programs indicating “Resource Program” and/or ancillary services will receive in-person programs and services according to the student’s Contingency Learning Plan on days they are scheduled in the building.

The plan has adopted the following safety measures: all students and staff are required to wear masks when on school property; staff will maintain 6 feet between themselves and students as much as possible; staff will be provided with personal protective equipment, and specific PPEs will be provided for wind instruments; and disposable masks will be provided to students for choir class.

Other safety standards include physical distancing by using smaller class sizes and larger classroom spaces, and students will work at individual desks or at opposite ends of tables. Signs and floor stickers will be placed throughout the building to indicate proper physical distancing, and students will stay to the right when walking in halls and on the stairs.

The students began the school year in a virtual format with two programs: “GPPSS Traditional” and  “OneGP Virtual.” According to the plan, “OneGP Virtual” will maintain a fully remote schedule throughout the 2020-21 school year. “GPPSS Traditional” students can return to school when in-person learning continues.