Hybrid learning to begin for some GPPSS students

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 6, 2020

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Editor’s note: This article includes the latest information as of press time. Because the COVID-19 situation is constantly changing, the school plans could be modified at any time.


GROSSE POINTES — Grosse Pointe Public School System students in grades Young Fives to fifth grade will return to hybrid face-to-face learning this month.

At the Sept. 14 Board of Education meeting held virtually, Board President Margaret Weertz directed the administration to provide a detailed plan to return students to school in a safe, face-to-face environment.

At the Sept. 28 virtual Board of Education meeting, the school board voted 6-1 to approve the district’s “Return to Face to Face Instruction for GPPSS Traditional.” Trustee Cindy Pangborn cast the dissenting vote.     

“Regrettably, because I want kids back to school as soon as possible, I don’t think we’ve covered the issues that the parents and the teachers were concerned with,” Pangborn said. “I think these last two weeks was too fast. We haven’t talked about how many kids need to be in buses. We got a report today, but it doesn’t say anything about how many students will be involved. There’s just too many unanswered questions to have a safe plan all through these grades.”

Weertz, Christopher Lee, Joseph Herd, Kathleen Abke, Judy Gafa and Christopher Profeta voted in favor of the measure.

“I’d like to concur with the board members who said that they appreciate the effort that has been put in by our administration, our teachers and all personnel basically,” Herd said. “Because we’ve never been through a pandemic before, we’re constantly having to turn on a dime. And to some, that may appear as if we don’t have a plan, but we simply can’t predict the future. What we can do is (be) best prepared with the facts that we have.”

Jon Dean, deputy superintendent of educational services, presented the plan with assistance from Amanda Matheson, deputy superintendent of business services, and Stefanie Hayes, director of special education.

The Young Five, kindergarten, and first and second grade students will begin face-to-face hybrid learning Oct. 12. Third, fourth and fifth grade students will begin face-to-face hybrid learning Oct. 19. Hybrid learning combines face-to-face instruction with online learning and reduces the number of students in the building.

The plan is for sixth through 12th grade students to return to hybrid learning Nov. 9. More information on that is to be disclosed in the coming weeks, as last Monday’s presentation focused on the district’s younger students.

School officials want to remind everyone the timeline is subject to change based on new, daily information regarding COVID-19.

Because of COVID-19, two options for students were offered this fall when students returned to school Sept. 8: “OneGP Virtual” and “GPPSS Traditional.” Both programs are taught by GPPSS teachers, and the students learn virtually from home.

Students in the “GPPSS Traditional” program may return to in-person learning depending on the safety circumstances of COVID-19. Even if in-person instruction resumes, “OneGP Virtual” students must stay in the program for the entire semester.

Moving forward
The district’s hybrid program for Young Fives through grade four will have the students divided primarily by alphabet into Groups A and B to allow families to be on the same schedule.

Students will attend school in their group. Group A will attend school on Mondays and Thursdays and every other Wednesday. Group B will attend school Tuesdays and Fridays and the opposite Wednesdays from Group A.

The plan states that students will attend full days when doing in-person learning. School hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. On days when the students are not in face-to-face instruction, they will have asynchronous learning choices, which are experiences created by the teacher that are accessible at any time.

Students with individualized education programs, or IEPs, indicating “Resource Program” and/or ancillary “services,” will receive in-person programs and services according to the student’s Contingency Learning Plan, or CLP, on days they are scheduled in the building.

The hybrid school hours for the fifth graders, who are entering middle school for the first time this year as per the district’s reconfiguration, will attend school on their days from 8:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Students will be in Groups A and B.

The students attend full days, by group, when they have an in-person instructional day. On days when they are not doing in-person instruction, the students will have asynchronous learning opportunities. Students with IEPs will receive in-person programs and services according to the student’s CLP, on days they are scheduled in the building.

Under the plan, all students and staff will wear masks except when eating, drinking or outside. Staff will be provided personal protection equipment, including masks. Social distancing will be maintained using smaller class sizes, no greater than 15 students, with the average class size of 10 students. Larger spaces will be used by students when possible, and students will work at individual work stations either at desks or at opposite ends of tables. According to district officials, students will be provided a personal foldable shield when at tables, and they will typically spend the day with only their group of students.

Several teachers and residents — many concerned about the hybrid plan — submitted comments for the hearing of the public, which district Director of Instructional Technology Christopher Stanley read aloud. Some believe half-days made more sense, asked about cleaning procedures, felt like teachers or parents had no input in the plan, and felt like answers about the hybrid model had not been answered. Some also think the hybrid plan will be confusing for families.

On Oct. 2, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s use of emergency powers was illegal and unconstitutional during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Grosse Pointe officials will still enforce that staff and students wear masks for in-person learning.

On Oct. 5, school officials sent a letter to parents regarding the safety precaution.

“All safety protocols that are currently in place, including but not limited to mask wearing by all students and staff, the physical distancing measures we have taken, and the at-home daily health screening for all students, remain in effect,” the letter reads. “These essential protocols and mitigation measures were extensively reviewed and ultimately approved by the health department and are part of our adopted Return to Learn Plan, and must be followed as approved. It is vitally important and required that our school community adheres to the safety measures contained in our plans as we return to in-person learning.”

To view the entire hybrid plan, visit the district’s website at www.gpschools.org and click on “Return to Face to Face Instruction for GPPSS Traditional” under district news.