Lila Place, head of school at Parkway Christian School in Sterling Heights, stands under a covered area near the front entrance. When school begins this year, this area will be used, weather permitting, as an outdoor classroom for subjects like physical education and art, she said.

Lila Place, head of school at Parkway Christian School in Sterling Heights, stands under a covered area near the front entrance. When school begins this year, this area will be used, weather permitting, as an outdoor classroom for subjects like physical education and art, she said.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Parkway makes way for August reopening

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published August 21, 2020

STERLING HEIGHTS — While multiple metro Detroit public school districts plan to only provide remote or virtual education as they start the school year, Parkway Christian School plans to offer an option to fully welcome students into the classroom Aug. 31, barring any backsliding in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s phased back-to-school roadmap.

Parkway Christian’s website says it framed its back-to-school plans around the state’s Return to School Roadmap, adding that the school is ready to “challenge minds, capture hearts and cultivate gifts in your children.” The school is connected to and next to Bethesda Christian Church, near the corner of Metropolitan Parkway and Schoenherr Road.

“We were always intending to do person-to-person unless we’re not allowed to once we got the roadmap,” Parkway Head of School Lila Place said.

In terms of social distancing policy, Place said the school will abide by recommendations and guidelines from the Macomb County Health Department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Place said Parkway officials took inventory of every building and room available, tabulating their square footage to  calculate how many students they could put in each classroom.

Parkway says it will have smaller class sizes and socially distanced classrooms under the state roadmap’s phases four and five. For instance, kindergarten will be held in a larger area, and the student count won’t go above 12 in that grade, Place said.

Elementary classes will each stick together throughout the school day in cohort groups. Meanwhile, high school and middle school students will follow block scheduling.

Place said the school staffers are required to wear masks, and elementary teachers will have clear masks that make the mouth visible for teaching phonics. Student mask guidelines will follow the state roadmap policy for phase four — students in sixth through 12th grade will have to wear masks in the classroom and in common areas, whereas elementary students only need to in common areas so long as they stay in cohort groups.

Place said the kids will get consistent reminders that they can’t get close to one another. She also said the students will go outside to learn more, weather-permitting.

“Because we’re in this huge building, and there’s the church, they have a big portico on the front,” she said. “We’re going to have gym classes under there.”

Janitorial staff will clean surfaces under “strict sanitization procedures,” the school said.

“We also hired additional staff to meet the needs of the sanitation and cleaning (surfaces) every four hours,” Place added.

While the classrooms are prepared, the school will still have a home virtual learning platform. The virtual program, which has the same tuition, combines live and on-demand instruction, and students will work with a virtual learning coordinator. And like normal classes, the virtual program will be graded. Students will get digital tablets and instructional videos.

Place said the virtual program will primarily be filmed and run by the classroom teachers.

“We’ve also hired a facilitator who can make sure that those who are doing the virtual learning are up to date,” she said. “We’ve also hired more staff for our resource room (so) our students who might have struggles might get supportive help.”

So far, Place said, 30 out of 190 families who have committed to attending Parkway have opted for the virtual program. The school says it would also move the rest of its students to a remote learning platform, should the state mandate a shutdown due to COVID-19.

Place said some parts of the plan are very costly to pull off, and while the budget doesn’t normally allow it, she hopes to get some outside financial help from local churches to meet those needs.

“We don’t get state funds for this,” she explained.

Molly DeBono said her children have attended preschool at Parkway, and this year she has enrolled her daughter, Callie, into the program.

“She has been looking forward to school forever, so she is very excited to go,” DeBono said. “They just have such a Christian, God-loving atmosphere, and we just need that.”

DeBono was also supportive of the school’s safety procedures.

“I think it’s incredible that they’re using Bethesda,” she said. “I think that’s a wonderful thing that Bethesda is allowing for them, and a great opportunity for Parkway to just really expand and spread out the students.”

Parkway Christian School is located at 14500 Metropolitan Parkway in Sterling Heights. Find out more by visiting www.parkwaychristian.org or by calling (586) 446-9900.