Presentation focuses on students’ return to school

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 20, 2020

 On Oct. 12, some Grosse Pointe Public School System students began returning to school in a hybrid model, including at Mason Elementary School in Grosse Pointe Woods.

On Oct. 12, some Grosse Pointe Public School System students began returning to school in a hybrid model, including at Mason Elementary School in Grosse Pointe Woods.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

GROSSE POINTES — After being out of their classrooms since last March, a number of Grosse Pointe Public School System students returned to school Oct. 12.

The Young Fives, kindergarten, and first and second grade students began face-to-face hybrid learning the week of Oct. 12. Third, fourth and fifth grade students were to begin face-to-face hybrid learning the week of Oct. 19. This is the first year the fifth graders will attend middle school due to the district’s reconfiguration plan.

Students in sixth through 12th grade are expected to return to school in a hybrid learning model Nov. 9. Hybrid learning combines face-to-face instruction with online learning and reduces the number of students in a building.

At the Oct. 12 Board of Education meeting held at Brownell Middle School, Jon Dean, deputy superintendent of educational services, presented an update about the students returning to school. Earlier in the day, Dean visited 40 classrooms at the district’s seven elementary schools.

“I had lots of staff members that I saw having really positive interactions with each other, excited to see their kids,” Dean said. “It was kind of a unique time because it was the first day of school, but these cohorts and these kids and these teachers have been together for about five weeks now. But it’s a really kind of different feel as we went through it.”

The district’s hybrid program has students divided primarily by alphabet into Groups A and B to allow families to be on the same schedule. Group A attends school on Mondays and Thursdays and every other Wednesday. Group B attends school Tuesdays and Fridays and the opposite Wednesdays from Group A.

School hours are 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. On days when the students are not in face-to-face instruction, they have asynchronous learning choices, which are assignments created by the teacher that are accessible at any time.

The students began the school year in a virtual format with two programs: “GPPSS Traditional” and  “OneGP Virtual.” “OneGP Virtual” students must stay in the program for the entire semester, even though in-person instruction resumed. “GPPSS Traditional” students can return to school when in-person learning continues.

At last week’s meeting, Mason Elementary School Principal Roy Bishop shared his thoughts on how the first day of hybrid learning went Oct. 12  

“It was very refreshing today. To be able to have kids within the building, to see the interaction between the community, between our staff, between our students, it was great,” Bishop said. “Having half the amount of students that we would normally have, we had a chance to be able to build more relationships, to be able to go deeper within some of the content that we had. To have that interaction, it was very positive.”

Several students reportedly said they felt like they already knew some of the students in their classroom because of their online connection.

“We went over a lot of routines. We went over a lot of handwashing, we went over a lot of how to use the sanitation stations that we have,” Bishop said. “We went over how to keep our distance, and what door to go in and what door not to go in.”

During the meeting, school board Trustee Christopher Lee asked about the cleaning procedures being done. Deputy Superintendent for Business Operations Amanda Matheson provided an overview of the process.

“With the return of elementary students, we have custodians going in to disinfect frequently touched surfaces starting around 2 1/2 hours into the day so that, by the four-hour mark, they have disinfected all of the frequently touched surfaces,” Matheson said. “Then at the end of the day, they’ll be going through their regular cleaning protocols, as well as disinfecting again.”

The district has electrostatic sprayer machines — one is a pushcart style and the other is a backpack style — to disinfect large areas. Matheson added that sanitizing wipes are available for wiping down student desks.

“We also have desk shields for the students, so if they’re working in small groups, they can get their personal desk shield out and put that up at their table that they’re working at to add another layer of barrier between themselves and any other students that they’re working with,” Matheson said.

Dean also highlighted what is next for the district regarding the secondary students. Administrators have been speaking with secondary school department chairs and the Grosse Pointe Education Association to plan the students’ return to school. Discussions included student safety and how to cover the educational content when the students are only in school part time.

“We’re planning on doing the same rollout that we did with our elementary plan,” Dean said.

Dean also shared at the meeting that, per a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services mandate, districts now have to post on their websites a COVID-19 case transparency report. The report will list active cases of the virus in the district. The database will cover a number of 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. To view the report, visit the district’s website at www.gpschools.org.

A virtual town hall meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 22 to discuss a hybrid learning model for the sixth through 12th grade students. The meeting can be viewed on the district’s website.