Local districts adapt to ever-changing COVID-19 school year

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published October 23, 2020

 Center Line Public Schools students began attending school in a hybrid format earlier this month.

Center Line Public Schools students began attending school in a hybrid format earlier this month.

Photo provided by Center Line Public Schools


CENTER LINE/WARREN/STERLING HEIGHTS — When the 2020-2021 school year began, local districts started the year conducting virtual learning formats in which students log on to a computer at home to take classes and communicate with their teachers online.

Several weeks into the new year, some districts have continued with virtual schooling, while others have opened their schools for in-person learning. Per the state, all districts must have a return-to-learn plan.

In addition, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has mandated school districts must now post on their websites a COVID-19 case transparency report. The report will list active cases of the virus in the district and will cover several details, including the date the case was reported, at which school, how the information was reported to the community, and the number of staff and students with close contact to the positive case that have been identified and quarantined.

In Center Line Public Schools, students returned to school Oct. 7 in a hybrid format. The students have been divided into two groups: Track A and Track B.

Track A students attend face-to-face instruction on Mondays and Tuesdays. They have a full day of synchronous instruction with their teachers on Wednesdays and two days of extended learning activities on Thursdays and Fridays in which they do their schoolwork virtually. Synchronous interactions are also known as real-time learning with the teacher.

Track B students have extended learning days on Mondays and Tuesdays, a full day of synchronous instruction with their teachers on Wednesdays, and face-to-face instruction with their teachers on Thursdays and Fridays.

Speech, special education and other support programs are offered to students on the extended learning days.  

“The extended learning activity days are when students expand their learning independently or in small groups through extension activities at home,” Superintendent Joseph Haynes said in an email. “There may be some project-based learning, reinforcement activities or introductory activities assigned to students.”

Approximately 75% of the CLPS students are participating in the hybrid model. About 600 students are enrolled in the district’s online Academy 21 virtual program.

“I believe all of the programming is going well. Everything is new for students, staff and parents. We are all adapting to the new and very different way of teaching and learning,” Haynes said. “Various issues have presented themselves, but the staff and administration have worked hard at addressing those situations. I believe the quality of education will continue to improve the more familiar everyone becomes with the new routine of school.”

Center Line has what Haynes described as “a very detailed process of cleaning the buildings each day.” Common areas and commonly touched surfaces are cleaned on a very specific schedule with approved U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleaners. Every Wednesday and Friday evenings, the buildings are deep cleaned to accommodate the transition between the two Tracks of students.  

“Due to (COVID-19) and the necessity of educating students via virtual or hybrid instruction, the educational process has been disrupted. I think it will take some time for people to become familiar with our current means of educating students. Once students feel (comfortable) with learning virtually behind a screen or learning multiple ways through hybrid experiences, the quality of learning will increase,” Haynes said. “In order to address any gaps in education, I believe schools have a responsibility to identify the most important aspects of their curriculum and focus instruction and experiences on those ideas. In order to offer a quality educational experience, school districts will need to address any issues that hinder learning/minimizing the impact that (COVID-19) has had on their schools and their students.”

Moving on
Warren Consolidated Schools officials are working on a plan to allow students to return to in-person learning on a hybrid schedule or remain at home with a virtual option. The return dates have yet to be determined. School officials have asked parents to fill out surveys stating whether they want their children to return to school or continue learning virtually.

“The results of the survey will help us determine where staff need to be deployed both for in-person learning and virtual,” Superintendent Robert Livernois said via email. “It will be a hybrid (some in-person and some remote), and families may still choose to be all virtual.”

If students do return to school in a hybrid model, they will be required to socially distance in classrooms, including wearing masks. As for the current remote system, “Through the efforts of our dedicated teachers and support staff, I believe remote learning has gone as well as can be expected given the circumstances,” Livernois said.

He added teachers are issuing grades, but some areas have been adjusted based on the limitations of remote learning. Still, there is concern about students that have fallen behind because of this disruption caused by the pandemic.

“We will work to identify those students who need extra support and remediation. This is a high priority for us, especially since the importance of an in-person classroom teacher can never be replicated or replaced,” Livernois said. “They simply are too important to our children and the future of their education. One thing this pandemic has shown us is that traditional brick and mortar schools are more important than ever and are still the best option for students, especially from a social-emotional, as well as academic, perspective.”

De La Salle Collegiate High School students returned to in-person learning in late August, and school officials purchased three thermographic cameras to take temperatures of everyone entering through the doors. Regina High School has been holding school in a hybrid model since the school year began. Families concerned about in-person instruction also had the option to learn remotely.

On Oct. 15, Van Dyke Public Schools Superintendent Piper Bognar issued a letter to parents stating the district will continue its virtual learning through the end of the first semester, which ends Jan. 22.  

“We hope to return face-to-face, at least in a hybrid manner, at the end of January. This will of course depend upon public health and safety,” Bognar said in the letter posted on the district’s website at www.vdps.net.    

According to Bognar, a late summer survey indicted 70% to 80% of parents wanted their children to learn in the virtual model.  

On Sept. 28, Warren Woods Public Schools opened its buildings for face-to-face learning after conducting virtual schooling Aug. 31 through Sept. 25. Students either returned to school in person or continued with virtual learning until the end of the semester.

According to Fitzgerald Public Schools Superintendent Kimberly Pawlukiewicz, the district will welcome students back for in-person learning Nov. 9 with several safety precautions in place. Elementary students will attend for five full days of instruction, while middle and high school students will attend four full days a week, with Wednesdays being virtual for all students.

All staff and students will be required to wear masks at all times. In addition, Fitzgerald purchased three-sided plexiglass desk protectors for all student desks to help reduce the spread of the virus. The district will still offer virtual school, as well.

All buildings will be cleaned as outlined in the district’s Return to Learn. All restrooms and touch points will be cleaned every four hours, and each classroom and office will have cleaner for use when needed.