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 Volunteers have worked throughout the pandemic lockdown to ensure students stay safe and fed while they’re away from school.

Volunteers have worked throughout the pandemic lockdown to ensure students stay safe and fed while they’re away from school.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki


Schools in Birmingham, West Bloomfield begin plans to partially reopen in fall

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 26, 2020

 Chef Keenan Lane serves up lunches just outside of the school May 20.

Chef Keenan Lane serves up lunches just outside of the school May 20.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

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BIRMINGHAM/WEST BLOOMFIELD — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all schools closed to students March 16. Since March 17, anxious parents have waited for any kind of update as to when their kids can get back into the classroom.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released early guidelines on how schools should reopen in the fall for the 2020-21 academic year.

The most likely scenario, provided the rate of COVID-19 infection continues to slow, is that classrooms will be tweaked to maintain a disinfected learning space. CDC suggestions include spacing desks and seating 6 feet apart when possible, limiting nonessential visitors, staggering schedules and removing as many shared objects as possible. Ideally, those plans would include a ramped-up schedule for disinfection of school facilities — not just furniture, but ventilation systems and transport vehicles.

At its May 19 regular meeting, conducted on Zoom, the Birmingham Public Schools Board of Education discussed a potential framework for returning to school in the fall. Currently, Superintendent Mark Dziatczak said, the district is on step three of a six-step plan to bring teachers and students back into buildings for instruction. Not until step five would K-12 face-to-face engagement be brought back at schools, with social distancing measures. Until that point, classes — including summer programming — will be done virtually.

If the virus spread requires that isolation is still in place in the fall, curriculum will be adapted for that.

Making that call will be three ad hoc committees created by the district to guide decisions: a mental health and wellness group, an instruction group, and a group for district health and safety. They’ll liaise with volunteer leaders and will open parent forums for feedback.

In the West Bloomfield School District, three models are being considered for fall 2020, each with safety milestones to be met and technological options if they are not.

Both districts note that many medical groups believe distance and virtual learning will continue to be part of education through at least the fall semester. Whitmer said her office would release its own guidelines for reopening schools in the coming weeks.

For updates on the statewide plan for schools, visit michigan.gov.

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