Southfield Public Schools officials recently made the decision to host classes online only this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials cited rising numbers of the virus in people 19 years old and younger.

Southfield Public Schools officials recently made the decision to host classes online only this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials cited rising numbers of the virus in people 19 years old and younger.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Southfield Schools to be online only in the fall

For a fee, ‘care program’ to be offered for people needing child care

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published July 29, 2020

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SOUTHFIELD/LATHRUP VILLAGE — Southfield Public Schools officials announced recently a decision to provide remote learning only to start the 2020-2021 school year.

The district made the announcement July 29 via its website, citing a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community.

“The administrators, teachers and staff of the Southfield Public School District have been hard at work this summer to prepare for a variety of scenarios related to the 2020-21 school year,” Anika Corbett, the director of communications for SPS, said in an email.

To start the school year, according to the district’s website, all students in the district will engage in remote learning only, similar to the final few months of the previous school year.

Officials said the district will also offer a virtual only learning option should the district eventually reopen for in-person learning.

As was the case at the end of last school year, students will receive rigorous online instruction and support, officials said, with the same level of instruction that in-person curriculum and teaching provides.

SPS Superintendent Jennifer Martin-Green said the decision was a tough one, and many factors came into play.

“We looked at the safety and welfare of all of our stakeholders and the increased number of positive cases in Oakland County and the state of Michigan,” Martin-Green said. “But what really finalized the recommendation was the increased number of confirmed positive cases in people from birth to age 19 — the age of the population of which we service.”

Martin-Green said SPS officials started monitoring the Oakland County Health Department’s webpage on the number of confirmed positive cases around July 14, when the number of confirmed cases in people 19 years old and younger was at 292. Two weeks later, on July 28, that number had increased to 576 confirmed positive cases.

At press time, the number of confirmed positive cases in people 19 years old or younger was 872.

“That was alarming to me. Within a two-week time span, there was a 2.3% increase. If this trajectory continues, we have four weeks before 10% of the children in the county test positive. We didn’t want to contribute to that number.”

Another major factor that went into the decision, Martin-Green said, was recommendations from the state regarding social distancing in the classroom. According to the state, desks should be 6 feet apart.

Martin-Green said the district just doesn’t have the space to accommodate that. In addition, more teachers would be needed to support the extra number of classrooms needed to maintain proper social distancing.

“We would need twice the amount of staff to fulfill learning, twice the amount of classrooms,” she said. “Several years ago, Southfield closed some of their facilities based on enrollment, and some were taken offline and repurposed. The district had already downsized, which makes it difficult to pivot back and open these facilities. Time or money doesn’t allow us to do that.”

Martin-Green said there also might be room in the future to transition back to in-person learning, but that plan remains fluid.

“Our plan, as we speak, is ever evolving. Our plan is to have monthly recommendations to our board based on conditions,” she said. “Once COVID-19 data says that the virus is contained, and we are in phase five, we are recommending that we return gradually to in-person learning as the conditions permit.”

District parents have overall been supportive of the plan, but Martin-Green said some have expressed concern over what to do with their children as they also return to work.

Martin-Green said the district is offering a care program for families who need support throughout the day, which will be offered at a cost. She said district officials are still negotiating the rate.

Accountability measures for attendance, grades and assessments will apply, officials said.

“The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority. We have reviewed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and the MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap,” officials said in a July 23 letter to parents.

Classes will begin Aug. 31, Corbett said.

To keep up to date with SPS plans, go to southfield.k12.org/returntoschool.

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