Educators react to new COVID-19 state mandates

Tips for students, parents at home as pandemic continues

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published November 19, 2020

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WARREN/CENTER LINE/STERLING HEIGHTS — In-person learning, both hybrid and daily, for local school 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 several restrictions include high school students having to return to virtual learning during the three-week mandate. But in many local districts, school officials decided it was best to have all students return to virtual learning at this time.

According to a letter from Center Line Public Schools Superintendent Joseph Haynes posted on the district’s website at www.clps.org, face-to-face instruction was paused for the entire district. In October, students began on a hybrid schedule except for students whose families opted for the district’s Academy 21 virtual program at the beginning of the school year.

The decision to move all CLPS students back to virtual was “out of concern for the transmission of the virus between students and staff as well as our struggle to maintain adequate staffing due to quarantining measures, Center Line Public Schools has made the difficult decision to pause face-to-face instruction for all preK-12th grade students,” the letter states.

In Warren Consolidated Schools, Superintendent Robert Livernois has kept families abreast of new positive COVID-19 cases in the school system via daily robocalls and the district’s website. WCS students and staff have been conducting remote learning since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. The plan is to continue with the remote format until the end of the first semester Jan. 25, 2021 and revisit whether to reopen schools at that time.

At press time, Warren Woods Public Schools educators were in the process of notifying parents of their district’s plan, which was scheduled to be posted on the district’s website. Van Dyke Public Schools has offered virtual learning since the beginning of the school year. Fitzgerald Public Schools planned to suspend all in-person learning beginning Nov. 23, as per the district’s website.


‘Kids like it when you come into their world’
Last March, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed down schools because of the virus, there were students who were happy they didn’t have to go to school anymore and could instead learn virtually from home. But the nostalgia wore off for many students who missed their friends, daily routines, activities, teachers and sports at school.

“That socialization piece is missing,” Lincoln High School guidance counselor Tameka Gaddis said. “Kids want to be around their friends. When kids get together, they make a lot of noise. Socializing is very important. Kids learn from their friends and how they want to be perceived.”

While students might not be able to communicate face to face with each other, texting and Facetime has been an option. But it doesn’t compare to being with your peers.

“You don’t have the facial expressions or the tone in your voice,” Gaddis said.

Being at home all the time can bring on depression and loneliness. One way for parents to open up the lines of communication with their children — especially if they seem down — is through activities such as cooking, exercising or watching a movie together.

“That kind of is a doorway to open up a conversation,” Gaddis said. “Kids like it when you come into their world.”

Being mindful of mental health is also proactive. LHS has set up a virtual calming room for students should they need a break from their studies. There are links for relaxing music, brief yoga sessions and more.

“It’s to keep calm, get centered and be stress-free before you come back to the real world,” Gaddis said.

Lincoln Middle School counselor Judy Maloney, also the school’s National Junior Honor Society advisor, has been trying her best to keep in touch with students via email, Zoom video conferencing, telephone and U.S. mail. However, it’s not the same as having a student with her in office spending quality time with them.

“Staff, teachers and students are all feeling the tribulations of the current state of our state, community and world since this virus has come into light,” she said in an email. “Life has become a major adjustment for all of us. We all have hope that life will return to the normal we all know well.  But, in reality we cannot go back. We need to move forward.  We need to find ways to teach, learn and connect in an all-new way.  We need to have faith that life will be better; that the struggles we have today will make us stronger in the end. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., ‘We Shall Overcome.’”

Some parents want their children to return to in-person learning because they feel virtual learning isn’t working out in their households. Parents, too, are worried about their children falling behind academically by not being in school.

“I think the key thing is to enforce school like you normally would and take it seriously,” Center Line High School Academy 21 coach Christine Akroush said, adding that parents should remember to talk positively about school although it’s online. “If they say (the student is) not learning, it’s not going to motivate them. Have real expectations. School might look differently and it’s not the typical environment, but it’s still good.”

Another way to motivate them is to remind them they are a part of history because of the pandemic.

“Document it. Build up the moment. This is something people will talk about for years,” Akroush said. “We are all trying to figure this out.”

For parents concerned about their child’s studies or students struggling, reach out to their teacher for some one-on-one time.

“Their teachers are still there for them to ask for help and support you,” Akroush said. “There are different resources for students to practice their skills.”

For students who don’t want to do their homework after school, “I want you to try it” or “do your best” are good motivators.

“Help support them afterward,” Akroush said.

One way to keep your child organized and manage their time at home is to set up a workspace where they focus as if they were in school. Akroush suggests families visit their local dollar store to find decorations to enhance their work area “just to make it feel like it’s theirs.”

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