School leaders focus on continuing in-person learning amid new COVID-19 variant

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 11, 2022

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FERNDALE/BERKLEY — The rise of COVID-19’s omicron variant has led to an increase in cases both nationwide and worldwide.

This also led to concerns about increased outbreaks in schools. While debates go on whether or not in-person education should persist, both the Ferndale and Berkley school districts are continuing with their current plans.

 

Berkley Schools
Berkley Schools Superintendent Scott Francis said the district’s goal and priority is to continue in-person learning for the students and staff while taking guidance from public health officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as well as keeping the staff healthy and available.

“We’ve had some COVID cases like everybody else, but as long as our staff is healthy and available to be in front of kids, then we’re gonna keep providing in-person learning for our students and for our families,” he said. “Obviously, we monitor the COVID numbers and cases’ spread, and we’ve been so fortunate with all of our communication practices and requirements and policies, and we’ve had little to no spread in our buildings. So for us, it’s keeping our staff healthy and working with public health officials and mitigating the amount of spread. So far, we’ve been able to do that.”

Because of the new variant, Francis said, there has been an increase in coronavirus cases over the past couple of months within the district, though he said the spread is not happening in the buildings. 

With guidance from the Michigan Department of Education and MDHHS, though, the district is limiting the number of people at after-school events to 100 or fewer. 

“Our guide has always been the public health officials and they know best as far as navigating COVID and providing safe experiences for families,” Francis said. “They said we should do this. We evaluated that and talked to our administrative team and board and … for this time being, that’s what we’re going to do.”

 

Ferndale Public Schools
Ferndale Public Schools Superintendent Dania Bazzi noted there has been an increase of COVID cases in the community, but the district still has been able to provide in-person instruction to students, which district personnel are happy about because it’s best for students. The district also will be limiting spectators at athletic events.

“Our staff has been incredibly flexible and worked with us to make sure that all of our students are supported,” she said. “Although our cases have increased, we’re still at a point where we’re meeting state attendance requirements in terms of the daily percentage you need to meet. We’re able to staff our buildings and make sure that coverage is there. 

“Those are really two of the important things: you have to ensure students are able to come to school, staff is able to come to school and then … you’re minimizing spread within the schools,” she continued.

Bazzi said that, due to the recent holiday break, there has been an increase in cases when people were out of school. She said that the district has been finding that when students and staff are in school and following the precautions, such as wearing a mask, social distancing and frequent hand washing, they get good results.

“We’ve found that we’ve seen us limiting the spread,” she said. “It’s not scientific, but we almost feel that students are safer when they’re in school because we follow those processes as best we can. In school, we’re in a controlled environment where we require masks and have the necessary safety guidelines to keep our kids in school. Could things change? Of course, but we’ll continue to monitor it on a daily basis and (in) continual conversation with the Board of Education and the county Health Department to make sure we’re operating in the safest manner possible. If a decision to change direction needs to be made, we’ll certainly make that as a team together.”

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