Eisenhower returns to remote learning following increase in COVID cases

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 5, 2021


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Eisenhower High School has returned to fully remote learning after the school saw a high number of COVID-19 cases being reported in the last week of March.

After learning of 37 COVID cases and having to quarantine more than 400 students, the school district’s leadership decided to have students return to fully remote learning starting March 23 and remain remote until after spring break.

Students are out of school for spring break this week. Classes will resume remotely April 12, and the school will be looking to return to in-person learning April 19.

In a letter to students and their parents, Robert Monroe, the interim superintendent of Utica Community Schools, explained that the high school would be returning to remote learning March 31 due to the increase in cases to 37 and that the school would be looking to return closer to the end of the month after students completed quarantine.

A second letter that was sent to students and their parents changed the date to go remote from March 31 to March 23 after an additional three cases were discovered.

“As you know, the first priority of our school is the health and safety of our entire community. I need to share with you that due to a significant number of new cases of COVID-19 and the resulting mandated quarantine of Eisenhower students, we will, as a precaution, need to temporarily pause our in-person instruction. This will begin Tuesday, March 23,” Monroe wrote.

He said that this was an extremely difficult action for the school to take.

“At this time, we have approximately 40 positive student cases resulting in more than 400 students being placed in quarantine, as mandated by the Macomb County Health Department. We need to take this step now to pause in-person instruction to reduce any further spread in our community,” he said in the letter.

The letter outlined the schedule from that point forward.

Students returned to remote instruction with their teachers March 23 until spring break began on April 2.

Following spring break, Eisenhower students will follow the previously communicated schedule for the week of April 12, which was planned before the recent increase in COVID-19 cases at Eisenhower to take place remotely districtwide to mitigate any possible spread of COVID-19 following spring break travel. The district said it anticipates that students scheduled to test April 13 and 14 will be able to do so in person. Otherwise, all students will stay remote the week of April 12.

Students districtwide will return to in-person instruction the week of April 19.

“Our ability to return to — and remain in — full day in-person instruction depends on all of us. It is critical that all of us take the necessary steps to mitigate the spread in our community. These include self-screening and staying home if you do not feel well, the use of face coverings, distancing, regular hand-washing, and the use of disinfectant,” Monroe said.

Eisenhower spring sports tryouts have also been paused and startup dates will be shared by the athletic department as information becomes available. Students participating in winter postseason competition will be able to complete those activities following new guidelines from the state of Michigan regarding COVID-19 testing.

Monroe reminded the school community that COVID-19 vaccination eligibility has expanded this week.

“We also want you to be aware that after April 5, Michigan residents 16 years of age and older will have the opportunity to be vaccinated,” Monroe said.

Kelly Swanson, an Eisenhower science teacher, said that changing back to remote learning once again was a little saddening, but she would rather have everyone be safe.

“It was very emotional for me to realize that we wouldn’t get to see each other in person until fourth quarter,” she said.

Since the district had gone remote a few times before the change to remote learning March 23, she said it did not require changing a lot of lesson plans this time around.

“As cases were on the rise (prior to going remote) many of the in-person lessons that we had planned had to be altered due to (the) amount of kids out on quarantine. The biggest change was not being able to do hands-on labs for reaction types,” she said.

Swanson said she hopes to be back in person soon, but only if it is safe for everyone to return to in-person learning.

“I would prefer to be back in person but only if it is safe,” she said.