Students in Ferndale Public Schools now have the option to return to in-person instruction after the Board of Education voted to approve a plan Feb. 1. This picture shows how an elementary school classroom will be arranged to allow for social distancing.

Students in Ferndale Public Schools now have the option to return to in-person instruction after the Board of Education voted to approve a plan Feb. 1. This picture shows how an elementary school classroom will be arranged to allow for social distancing.

Photo provided by Ferndale Public Schools


Ferndale Public Schools to allow in-person instruction option

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published February 22, 2021

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FERNDALE — The students in Ferndale Public Schools now have the option to return to in-person instruction.

On Feb. 1, the district’s Board of Education approved a Return to Learning Plan that allows students in elementary, middle and high schools the choice of whether or not they would like to receive instruction in-person. Outside of special exceptions, students have not been able to participate in in-person classes in a year, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Michigan in March 2020.

“Throughout this pandemic Ferndale Schools has worked tirelessly to ensure each of our students has what they need to succeed in and out of the classroom,” board President Mike Davisson said in a statement. “Nonetheless, we recognize that some needs have not been met through virtual instruction. Our educators will continue to work hard to identify and address our students’ academic and socioemotional needs, whether students return to the classroom or remain fully virtual. We hope that during the pandemic they have learned new things about who they are and how to care for others.”

For students not comfortable with returning to school, they still will be allowed to learn virtually from home.

Students in Ferndale’s Early Childhood Center, Lower and Upper Elementary schools will be allowed to return March 1. For those in the Middle School, they will be allowed back March 8. The students from Ferndale High School, University High School and the Tri-County Education Center can return March 15.

The district will be taking on a hybrid model for in-person learning, where students will go to their school part-time for instruction.

“We decided to do this model because ... we had a significant portion of our population who wanted to remain virtual to the end of the year, and we had a significant portion of our population who wanted to return to some sort of in-person learning,” Superintendent Dania Bazzi said. “We felt that this hybrid model would meet the needs of both stakeholders.”

An overview of the plan and the schedule for each school level can be viewed at www.ferndaleschools.org/return/back.

Sheri Gibson Dirkse, a member of the Ferndale Secondary Parent Teacher Organization, has four children in the district. One of them, a senior at Ferndale High School, will be returning in-person while her other three kids, two at FHS and one at the middle school, will stay virtual.

Dirkse, who feels positive about the return plan, said she had conversations with her kids about what they wanted to do. For her three staying virtual, she said they might look at going back to school in the spring.

“I really like the plan that the schools have laid out,” she said. “There’s been a couple iterations of this plan and they took a great deal of time in coordinating and listening to parent feedback … sending out numerous, I think almost monthly surveys and questionnaires, looking for parent feedback on what we wanted, and ultimately they really took as much as they could into consideration.”

A teacher herself in another school district, Dirkse felt she wouldn’t be overwhelmed with the plan Ferndale came up with.

“It’s a little bit different because you do have kids that are still going to be at home and kids that are going to be in your class, but it’s nowhere near what I’ve seen from other districts,” she said. “The other measures they are taking, the masks, all of the cleaning procedures … the schools are staying very clean. The kids are all going to be socially distanced as far as the desks and lunch rooms. I’m pretty confident that that will all work out.”

The district has been evaluating when to enact a return to in-person instruction plan since last summer. The decision was made now, Bazzi said, because of the decreasing COVID-19 numbers in the state and the rollout of the vaccine to educational workers.

“Those two factors really impacted our decision, but overall we felt that we needed to provide our students with an in-person option to meet their needs,” she said.

As the school year continues and the numbers improve, Bazzi believes more families will want to return to in-person. She said that when that happens, there will be a tipping point in how they ensure social distancing within their current plan.

In the event COVID-19 numbers do rise again, the district has stated that the Board of Education can reconsider its decision to return.

Dirkse felt confident that should anything arise, her kids can come back home and learn without missing a beat.

“They’ve laid out such a plan that really not much is going to be changing in the way of how their curriculum is presented and how their schoolwork is presented to them,” she said. “They’ll be keeping kind of the same plans and schedules that they’ve had all year, which is nice.”

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