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Governor’s back-to-school plan disclosed

Educators plan for 2020-2021 school year

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published July 2, 2020

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CENTER LINE/WARREN — Now that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released her MI Safe Schools Roadmap, local educators can continue planning for the 2020-2021 school year.

The governor’s back-to-school plan, released June 30, provides safety protocols to keep school communities safe based on the status of COVID-19. The plan is the result of the Return to School Advisory Council and the COVID-19 Task Force on Education.

Because of the virus, in mid-March, Whitmer closed all schools until the end of the 2019-2020 school year. The plan recommends that students return to school in person. However, that could change depending on further outbreak of the virus.

The MI Safe Schools Roadmap provides recommendations across mental and social-emotional health, instruction, and operations within each phase of the MI Safe Start Plan, which has six phases and, at press time, was in phase four. The MI Safe Schools Roadmap is relying on the most up-to-date scientific data available on COVID-19.

All preK-12 schools must follow the safety protocols outlined in the plan noted as “required.” Many schools also may choose to implement some or all of the “strongly recommended” or “recommended” practices.

At press time, in-person instruction is permitted with required safety protocols. School districts will retain the authority to close school buildings even if they have not been mandated to do so.

The plan requires that facial coverings must be worn by staff members except for meals. Face masks must be worn by sixth- to twelfth-grade students, but it’s not mandatory for K-5 students.

Facial coverings also must be worn by all bus drivers during transportation and all students who ride the bus, and they must be worn in building hallways and common areas by preK-12 students except for during meals.

However, any staff member or student who cannot medically tolerate a facial covering must not wear one. Under the plan, it is recommended that preK-5 and special educators consider wearing clear plastic masks so students can see their lips moving.

Schools also must provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, soap and paper towel. Strongly recommended per the plan is the spacing of desks six feet apart in the classroom, with class sizes kept to a level to meet spacing requirements. All desks are recommended to face the same direction toward the front of the classroom. Staff and parents will need to remind students not to share things, such as utensils or brushes.

Teachers should maintain six feet of spacing between students as much as possible. Family members or other guests will be not allowed in the school building except under extenuating circumstances determined by district officials. Indoor assemblies that bring together students from more than one classroom are prohibited. In addition, the plan recommends school officials hold weekly discussions with local public health officials about the virus.

Under the plan, frequently touched surfaces including light switches, doors, benches and bathrooms must undergo cleaning at least every four hours with either a diluted bleach solution or a disinfectant approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Student desks, libraries, computer labs, arts supplies and other hands-on classrooms must undergo cleaning after every class period with either an EPA-approved disinfectant or diluted bleach solution. Strongly recommended is that every school should identify and designate a quarantine area and a staff person to care for students who become ill.

The complete MI Safe Schools Roadmap is available at www.michigan.gov.


School officials prepare
“We are preparing for when school reopens in the fall,” Warren Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert Livernois said.

Although schools have been granted in-person learning, WCS officials realize some parents might not want their children to return to school. Therefore, the district is preparing a K-12 virtual education platform option through Schoology for the 2020-2021 school year.

“We’re making sure that option is available for families,” Livernois said. “Some parents have no fear. Others are concerned about children going to school and bringing back the virus.”

Schoology is an online program designed to create engaging content, design lessons and assess student understanding. Students and teachers also can communicate through interactive discussion boards, and grading tools are available to provide feedback.

“It was extraordinarily difficult for families to have all their children at home,” said Livernois. For example, the superintendent spoke with one family with three children, who had 18 different teachers with whom to keep in contact when school was closed. “The learn-at-home concept was very challenging for some families.”

And since some families do not have technological devices at home, the WCS Board of Education voted in May to purchase 3,000 laptops for this fall to either be used at home or in school.

While online schooling will be available, Livernois said that “an actual teacher still by far, in my opinion, is the very best for children.”

“There is no substitute for quality in-person learning with a teacher who … cares for his or her students,” Livernois said. “Technology has its place for providing information and letting kids do experiments. It can’t come close to the benefits of an in-person (teacher) responding to cues the student is giving back.”

Van Dyke Public Schools officials also are getting ready to offer either face-to-face or online learning. The district was able to purchase laptops for all students using its Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act stimulus money, should schools close because of the pandemic.

“We definitely want the kids in school,” VDPS Superintendent Piper Bognar said. “We miss them. It’s been very difficult for everyone.”

VDPS also will form committees to plan details for the safest return to school to help to ensure that Van Dyke families are comfortable with plans for the fall. The committees will take into consideration information gathered through a parent survey recently administered to get feedback about the schools reopening.

On June 26, Center Line Public Schools Superintendent Eve Kaltz posted a video on the district’s website, www.clps.org, to update families on the district’s plan for the fall. Parents and students will have the option to return to school full-time, contingent on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Whitmer’s guidelines.

Parents may also opt to have their children attend class part-time in school and part-time at home online, or 100% virtual learning with direct support from teachers. In addition, every child will be assigned a Chromebook for the 2020-2021 school year for their schoolwork.

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