School district officials discuss return to in-person learning plan

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published February 23, 2021


MACOMB TOWNSHIP/CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Chippewa Valley Schools recently reconfirmed the extended COVID-19 learning plan, but it wasn’t without discussion on how future learning should look like.

At the Feb. 8 district Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Ron Roberts said the learning plan is for the month of February and doesn’t change the manner in which the district is operating.

For a month now, elementary and secondary students have been in an in-person hybrid learning model.

Within the district, since kindergarten through 5th grade reopened Jan. 20 in a hybrid setting, Roberts said six positive COVID-19 cases have been reported, resulting in 14 students being quarantined. Four staff members have tested positive, leading to 32 quarantines.

At the secondary level — grades sixth to 12th — since Jan. 25, Roberts said there are six positive cases with 55 quarantines.   

Trustee Robert Wojtowicz said board members are obligated to put aside personal feelings and make decisions on science and evidence when it comes to COVID-19.

“We’ve been told to follow the science all along, so I have to ask why it seems we’re not doing this,” he said.

He mentioned that agencies such as the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say students need to get back to school and have little risk of contracting COVID-19 in school.

Denise Aquino, board vice president, said having students back to class full-time would mean being less than six feet apart.

“For next year, maybe there are some things that we won’t be able to offer,” she said. “I think we need to get all our kids in school.”

Aquino said she’s not ready to put 35 kids together in a classroom at the secondary level.

Treasurer Jill DeMuynck Zech said some families, like her own, are considering other school districts to send their children to for next school year.

“We have kids that live a half mile from us who have been in school all year,” she said. “That doesn’t put my kids at a competitive advantage to them. We have to get these kids back in school. It shouldn’t be a matter of if — it should just be how.”

In his administration report, Roberts provided COVID-19 data, which included that, in December, over 1,300 cases of the virus were reported in Macomb Township. In January, that number dipped to 499 cases in Macomb Township.

In Macomb County, the seven-day average Jan. 22 was 144; by Feb. 3, that number was 94 positive cases.

“CDC has said it is safe for students to return to school and should not be counting on staff being vaccinated,” Roberts said. “They said masks and social distancing are necessary.”

He added that the CDC and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer want students to return to face-to-face instruction in some format.

“The guidelines haven’t stated that we should return all students, and I’m not saying that shouldn’t be our goal and we shouldn’t be working toward that,” Roberts said.

He concluded his remarks by saying the district is aiming for in-person education this school year and is encouraged by the dropping number of cases in the area.