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Lakeview approves hybrid plan for fall 2020

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 14, 2020


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Parents in Lakeview Public Schools were given the choice of two options for the 2020-21 school year under a plan presented by Superintendent Karl Paulson and approved by the Lakeview Board of Education Aug. 4.

The plan, approved by the Lakeview Board of Education that night, provides for a hybrid schedule of students in the district, separating them into one of two cohorts of students that will attend in-person classes on some days and do remote learning on other days if the state is still in Phase 4 of reopening on the first day of school, Sept. 8.

Phases 1-3 of reopening call for all school buildings to be closed, but in Phase 4, schools can reopen with restrictions and recommendations in place. Lakeview has said that in Phase 5 schools will be open for 100% in-person instruction.

The plan approved by the Board of Education largely covered Phase 4 plans, Paulson said. Lakeview Public Schools plans to divide students into two groups for Phase 4, with families kept in the same group. Student cohort A will attend school on Mondays and Tuesdays, while cohort B will attend on Thursdays and Fridays. The cohorts will alternate attending school on Wednesdays, meaning that over the course of two weeks, students will attend in-person classes five days.

On the days they do not attend in-person classes, Lakeview students will learn remotely through activities and lessons created by their teachers. Paulson said that online learning may include videos from teachers, but will not include live streaming of class time because of legal implications.

“There’s some Family Education Rights and Privacy Act issues,” he said. “We can’t just have the whole classroom videotaped at all times. We’re not authorized to videotape students all the time.”

The online lessons will be loaded into a student’s Schoology account for them to access when they are learning remotely.

“It won’t be easy. I was not originally advocating it, but our teaching staff said we can do this,” he said.

Splitting the students into two groups reduces the risk of transmission on any given day because it cuts Lakeview’s class sizes of up to 32-34 students per room, at the secondary level, in half.

Smaller class sizes allow for students to be more socially distant. Lakeview is also requiring students in grades 3 through 12 to wear a mask all day, every day they are in school. Mask wearing is strongly encouraged for children in kindergarten through second grade, but not required. Families may provide their own masks, but Lakeview also has enough disposable masks on hand to be able to provide two masks, per day, per student and staff member, for every day of school for the first few months.

Schools will offer their normal lunch schedule and provide menu options for students who are attending school each day, and will also make arrangements to provide breakfast and lunch to students who need food but are not in school on any given day. Latchkey services will be provided before and after school for those who need them on the day that a student attends in-person classes at a school. The district said, however, it cannot provide latchkey services for a student who is in the cohort that is learning remotely on a given day.

Specials teachers will most likely come to each classroom to teach, but Paulson said the district is so large that it had been doing that already as it used every available space for grade-level classrooms.

Like it did in the spring, Lakeview will have computers available to loan to families that do not have their own device for student learning. Paulson said the district ordered 300 more Chromebooks to be prepared and would be loaning them out one per family to begin with, and then on an as-needed basis for larger families if more devices are available.

For those families that do not wish to attend in-person classes at all, Lakeview Virtual Academy will be an option. Families are asked to select the online-only option for the entire school year, however, and may not move back and forth between the in-person hybrid model and online-only learning because of the need to account for the number of students who will be in a building.

Families that are Lakeview students through School of Choice can choose to take advantage of the Lakeview Virtual Academy for the 2020-21 school year and will have a spot held for them to return to in-person learning in the district for the 2021-22 school year. Attempts will be made to place them back in their prior school building based upon request, but placement will be dependent on class count.

A resident student, however, always has the ability to return to their home school, Paulson explained.

If there is space in the physical schools at the end of the first semester, some students who chose to attend Lakeview Virtual School but want to return may be able to come back, but “that might not accommodate everybody who wants to if things change a lot,” Paulson said. That’s why the district is telling families that are choosing to attend the virtual school that it is a year-long commitment.

Lakeview Virtual School has been run by Lincoln Learning Solutions for the past two years and will continue in that manner, Paulson said, but parents can expect that it is still a rigorous education.

“We wouldn’t put Lakeview’s name on it if it was some sort of ... poorly run operation,” he said. “There’s a live teacher on the other end. It’s more flexible than our remote learning package would be. If we have to shut down ... Lakeview Virtual School is more flexible than we could be.”

If the district is forced to shut down in the middle of the year for any reason, Paulson said the remote learning that students are experiencing two to three days per week would just be expanded to being used five days per week. When students are learning remotely at home, they will be expected to login and participate during their regular class time.

“If I have geometry (in the) first hour and I’m going to Zoom something, it has to happen (during) first hour,” Paulson said.

The content will also be recorded for Schoology to be accessed later if need be.

“We know that we should do what we can do to have health and safety as a priority, so social distancing, masks, sanitizing, (are) all of the preventative things we (can do). At the same time, we balance the need for kids to be in school ... continue learning, continue socializing to a degree,” Paulson said. “There’s a lot of things schools serve aside from reading, writing and arithmetic.”

Parents speaking at the Aug. 4 Lakeview Board of Education meeting said they are concerned about having their kids return to school, but they’re also concerned with how much they will learn in a virtual environment. They also pointed out that School of Choice families make up a good proportion of the district, so some consideration has to be made to accommodate them in the pandemic if they were to choose the virtual option.

A parent of three children who have attended Lakeview Public Schools throughout the years said her son would not do well in an all-virtual environment, so she was hoping the district would consider some sort of blended or hybrid approach.

“These are difficult times. It seems to me, in my opinion, that no matter what we do ... not everybody’s going to agree with it,” said Lakeview Board President Daniel Dombrowski.

He said he was comforted by the fact that the district is prepared with plenty of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to go away anytime soon, so we just all need to work together,” he said.