Royal Oak, Clawson school districts examine school year

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published July 28, 2020

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ROYAL OAK/CLAWSON — School districts across the state are looking at what returning to school this fall will look like in the face of a global pandemic.

On June 30, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released her MI Safe Schools Roadmap for local educators to plan for the 2020-21 school year. Because of the virus, Whitmer closed all schools in mid-March until the end of the 2019-20 school year.

The plan recommends students return to school in person with safety protocols pertaining to COVID-19, but that could change depending on further outbreaks of the virus. School districts retain the authority to close school buildings even if they have not been mandated to do so.

The MI Safe Schools Roadmap provides recommendations across mental and social-emotional health, instruction, and operations within each phase of the six-phase MI Safe Start Plan, which was in phase four at press time.

 

Royal Oak Schools
In her weekly update July 24, Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick informed the school district community of a board workshop at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 29, in which the Royal Oak Board of Education would hear proposals from the administrative team for return-to-school plans. The workshop took place after press time.

“We will discuss the options and recommendations for scheduling, instruction (face to face and virtual), cleaning protocols, policies, social/emotional wellness, district services such as food service, technology and transportation, as well as athletics, latchkey, and other specialized programs,” Fitzpatrick wrote.

She said that the situation evolves often, and the district is staying in close contact with the Michigan Department of Education and colleagues across the country regarding any new developments for K-12 public schools.

Fitzpatrick added that nearly 200 staff members have been using feedback from parent surveys and are aligning decisions and plans with the Return to School Roadmap.

“Many Royal Oak staff and administrators are also participating in workgroups across Oakland County as we all work to create learning plans to meet our students’ needs,” she wrote. “The final plan will be dependent upon the phase that we are in at the time school starts for us on September 8. We are working very hard to best meet the recommended and required protocols given to us.”

In a July 17 community update, Fitzpatrick said all learning would be remote if southeastern Michigan regressed to phase one to three at the start of the school year.

If the region stays in phase four, she said, in-person instruction would be permitted with a high degree of safety protocols, social distancing recommendations and limited extracurricular activities. If it regresses to phase three, all students would move back to the online learning platform.

“During Phase 4, we anticipate being open to students for in-person instruction, which may include alternating schedules or part-time face to face instruction blended with online learning. This may look different by level (preschool, elementary, middle school and high school),” she wrote.

If the region advances to phase five, the district would move to in-person instruction with minimal required safety protocols.

“Royal Oak students and families will have an opportunity to enroll in our all-remote learning option, whether or not we are open for in-person instruction,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “This is intended for families who do not wish to return for in-person instruction for at least the first semester of the new school year.”

Using the roadmap as a guide, she said, the district has written extensive cleaning protocols for all schools, including sanitizing high-traffic areas and contracting with its custodial company for additional personnel and services. It has also secured new signage, plexiglass shields for specific public areas, masks, gloves and hand sanitizer for staff and students.

“Following guidelines from our health department, we have plans for the reporting of positive exposure to the virus or confirmed cases of the virus, including communication tools and procedures to inform those who may be impacted,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “Royal Oak anticipates receiving support services from a school nurse as was outlined in a collaborative effort with Oakland County and Oakland Schools announced in June.”

For more information, visit royaloakschools.org.

 

Clawson Public Schools
In a July 17 dispatch to the Clawson Public Schools community, Superintendent Tim Wilson provided an update on the district’s plan to return to school in the fall.

He said the district would offer a completely online option called the Clawson Virtual Academy, or CVA. It includes different online options for sixth through 12th grade students, as well as developmental kindergarten through fifth grade students.

“After reviewing the Governor’s Roadmap to Return to School, we are confident that we can put all of the Governor’s required protocols in place, and because of that, we also plan to offer face-to-face education in our buildings as an option this fall for DK-12th grade students,” Wilson wrote.

He said parents could choose to enroll their children in either the CVA or its five-day-a-week, face-to-face program. For in-person learning, the district plans to keep students together with their classroom teacher to prevent students from intermingling with other students outside of their class.

“Our childcare and preschool programs fall under different state regulations than our DK-12th grade programs. Our childcare programs reopened on July 6th, and it has been going well,” Wilson wrote. “All of these pre-DK programs will run on normal days and times and follow all state regulations for the programs in regard to safety precautions.”

Wilson promised that the district’s plans would be in place by the end of July. Parents have an extended deadline of Aug. 3 to decide whether to enroll students in virtual or in-person education.

In a July 6 update, Wilson said students in the online option would need to remain in the online program from Aug. 31 to at least Jan. 22, 2021. He urged parents to email building principals to choose which option and also to ask any questions about the online program.

“It is important for us to know how many students will be in our online program so we can have the appropriate staff in place by the first day of school,” he wrote.

In a survey completed by parents, Wilson said the vast majority preferred face-to-face education in which students are in school buildings on a daily basis.

For  more information, visit www.clawsonschools.org.

To view the complete MI Safe Schools Roadmap, visit www.michigan.gov.

Staff Writer Maria Allard contributed to this report.

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