Students returning to local schools

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published January 27, 2021

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CENTER LINE/WARREN/STERLING HEIGHTS — Earlier this month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a press conference in which her administration set a goal for school districts to begin offering an option for in-person learning by March 1 or earlier if possible.

Warren Woods, Center Line and Fitzgerald public school districts already are holding in-person learning for students while still offering a virtual option for families who aren’t ready to send their children back to school. Also, because of staffing, some students may have gotten a different teacher, but that is not always the case.

School was open for in-person learning Oct. 2 in Warren Woods, minus the brief pause the governor mandated in the fall.

In Fitzgerald, prekindergarten through fifth grade students came back to school in person Jan. 11 and are attending class five days a week. The middle school and high school students were scheduled to return for full days when the second semester began Jan. 25, after press time. Because of the students still attending school virtually, class sizes have been reduced.

FPS Superintendent Kimberly Pawlukiewicz said that of the elementary students, about 45-50% are attending in person with the other half attending from home virtually. About 30% of the secondary students are attending in person with 70% optioning for virtual learning.

“Things are going well without any issues,” Pawlukiewicz said. “(Parents) have been pleased with our practices we’ve put into place.”

That includes mask wearing, extensive cleaning, following signs in the hallways, social distancing and using plexiglass at desks.

“It’s been so nice to have students in the district and seeing kids in our buildings,” Pawlukiewicz said. “Every day, it’s getting better.”

On Jan. 19, a letter from Van Dyke Public Schools Superintendent Piper Bognar was posted on the district’s website regarding a return-to-school plan. Second semester began Jan. 25. According to the letter, the district conducted a survey in which more than 60% of families stated their desire to finish out the school year in a virtual format.

“We will make that a possibility,” Bognar stated in the letter. “For the other roughly 38%, we’ll be working in teams over the next few weeks to figure out how to safely offer in-person opportunities for students by the governor’s goal date of March 1.”

At the Jan. 4 Center Line Public Schools Board of Education meeting, the school board voted 5-2 to transition from the district’s remote learning environment back to the hybrid model. Gary Gasowski and Henry Newnan voted against the measure. Under the plan, school officials brought students back to face-to-face instruction in a hybrid format, returning Jan. 14 and Jan. 19.

On Jan. 17, Warren Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert Livernois posted a letter on the district’s website to let the community know the school board voted Jan. 14 on a timeline to bring students back in a hybrid program. Families could still keep their children at home to conduct remote learning.

The timeline to return to in-person learning is available at www.wcskids.net.

For several months, the WCS Facebook page has been filled with messages from many parents who want to see their children back in school. Some also shared their plan to keep their children learning virtually because they felt that was safest amid the pandemic.

“The safety of the students and staff is our top priority. Another concern is the emotional well-being of our children. We are going to start the return of students, but it’s going to take several weeks to have every grade level back,” WCS Board of Education President Susan Trombley said. “No one is dragging their feet on this plan. There’s always been a plan. It’s ever changing.”

As for keeping things going during the pandemic, “Everyone is putting in more time they normally would,” Trombley said. “Stress is very high for everyone. We’re all overworked. We’re all uneasy. Everyone has risen to the occasion and doing the best they can.”

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