During a Feb. 9 Southfield Public Schools Board of Education meeting, board members unanimously approved a hybrid model that would allow students to return to half-day in-person learning on most days and half online. Southfield was one of the last districts to begin the phase-in process in Oakland County because, according to Superintendent Jennifer Green, it followed the science and data.

During a Feb. 9 Southfield Public Schools Board of Education meeting, board members unanimously approved a hybrid model that would allow students to return to half-day in-person learning on most days and half online. Southfield was one of the last districts to begin the phase-in process in Oakland County because, according to Superintendent Jennifer Green, it followed the science and data.

Photo by Jacob Herbert


Southfield school board approves return to school using hybrid model

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published February 24, 2021

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SOUTHFIELD — When Southfield Public Schools started to weigh the options of returning to school, Superintendent Jennifer Green said the decision would be based on science and science alone. At a Board of Education meeting held virtually Feb. 9, Green said Southfield was one of the last school districts in Oakland County to return to in-person learning, saying the board has put the health and safety of Southfield families first.

At the meeting, board Vice President Darrell Joyce stated serious concern for the health and safety of Southfield students, teachers and support staff, while board Trustee Yvette Ware-DeVaull urged parents, teachers and stakeholders to “trust the process,” and she said the board has done everything it needs to make sure everyone is safe.

“As with all decisions that we’ve made throughout this process, families will have the ultimate decision relative to whether or not they wish to engage in the hybrid model or keep their child 100% virtual,” Green said. “We are not forcing or imposing on any of our families.”

With all that in mind, the board unanimously voted to approve a hybrid return-to-learn model that would allow families the choice to learn either in person or at home. Southfield’s return to the classroom timeline began Feb. 22, when staff returned to their respective buildings. Following the staff’s return, a new learning option begins March 1 for kindergarten-fifth grade students, as well as English language learners, and students at the Bussey Center for Early Childhood Education, the Kennedy Learning Center and the Little Steps Youth Learning program.

On March 8, students in grades six through 12, including ELL, will be phased into the plan.

Starting March 15, kindergarten-grade two students will begin the new hybrid/virtual model, and all grade three-five staff will return to the building full time. March 22 will see students in grades three through five begin the new hybrid/virtual model. April 5 marks the beginning of a tentative phase three, when students in grades six through eight will begin the new hybrid model. April 19 will be the beginning of a tentative phase four, where all grade nine-12 students, including University Middle School Academy students, start the hybrid model.

Since this is a phased-in process, the Board of Education has not yet released a proposed schedule for any students other than those in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Generally, on Mondays through Thursdays, students will begin the day at school with their teacher face to face from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Students will then have from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. to pick up their lunch from the school, return home and eat it. Travel time will be factored in. The teachers would have a 40-minute lunch followed by a 40-minute prep session. After lunch, students will engage in independent work online from 12:20 p.m. until the day ends at 3:20 p.m.

On Fridays, one scenario would have students slated for a two-hour online learning session with their teacher in the morning. After lunch, they would have another two-hour afternoon online learning session with a teacher to end the day.

“I am personally impressed by the many factors and layers I see being pulled into this extended version of the plan,” said board Secretary Leslie L. Smith-Thomas.

The school board has also implemented several practices to mitigate a potential outbreak. Those returning to school in person will find hand sanitizing stations in corridors and classrooms, temperature-taking kiosks in corridors and offices, disposable and cloth facial coverings, disposable gloves, face shields, plexiglass barriers and portable shields for teachers and students.

The board has also invested in signage encouraging social distancing and proper hand washing hygiene, Clorox 360 electrostatic machines, Victory electrostatic machines, and air purifiers for instructional and shared spaces.

Frequently touched spaces will be disinfected with hospital grade disinfectant every day at 9 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. In the evening, use of an electrostatic sprayer with food contact surface disinfectant will be used in classrooms and offices. Also in the evenings, a Clorox 360 machine will be used to clean large common areas such as media centers and auditoriums.

But the cleaning efforts don’t stop there as Southfield has also taken ventilation into consideration. Air filters will be changed quarterly as well as with any positive COVID-19 case reported. Air purifiers will be placed in wellness rooms and classrooms, and teachers will reorganize their classrooms to ensure proper air circulation.

Kitchen staff will wear face coverings and disposable gloves. Breakfast will be served in grab-and-go bags, and lunch will be delivered to each classroom for early grades. High school students will retrieve their meal from the cafeteria to take back to the classroom. Hot and cold lunch options will be available, and lunches will be delivered with all components utilizing a hinged foam container with fruit and milk on the side. Schools will also provide dinner and a snack as students exit the building for the day.

Virtual learners will still receive seven days’ worth of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. A designated school will be available for curbside pickup, with set hours and specific pickup locations.

For students needing transportation to and from school, bus drivers will wear face coverings and face shields, students will be required to wear a face covering on the bus, and hand sanitizer will be available for use when entering and exiting the bus. Student seating on the bus will be assigned, and students of the same family will be required to sit together. Seating and handrails will be disinfected between bus rides, and all buses will be disinfected using a fogging machine at the end of every day.

“Our ultimate goal is to bring everyone back, but we recognize at this time based on the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines, we are unable to do so with the limited staff and limited infrastructure in accordance with the guidance,” Green said. “To accommodate all students keeping their same teacher, this proposal accommodates all of those requests.”

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