From the left, Kristi Law, Christina Sipila and Sara Rich are West Bloomfield School District teachers. The district’s Classroom to Cloud Return to Learn plan was approved by the West Bloomfield Board of Education in a 6-1 vote.

From the left, Kristi Law, Christina Sipila and Sara Rich are West Bloomfield School District teachers. The district’s Classroom to Cloud Return to Learn plan was approved by the West Bloomfield Board of Education in a 6-1 vote.

Photo provided by Daniel Durkin


West Bloomfield plans for half days in person, half online for K-8, online only 9-12

Kindergarten and up required to wear masks

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 6, 2020

 In phase four of the West Bloomfield School District’s Classroom to Cloud Return to Learn plan, a blended learning option is available for K-8 students.

In phase four of the West Bloomfield School District’s Classroom to Cloud Return to Learn plan, a blended learning option is available for K-8 students.

Photo provided by Daniel Durkin

 All students and staff now have to wear masks for in-person learning in the West Bloomfield School District.

All students and staff now have to wear masks for in-person learning in the West Bloomfield School District.

Photo provided by Daniel Durkin

 There will be two cohorts for K-8 students in phase four of the West Bloomfield School District’s Classroom to Cloud Return to Learn plan, with approximately 15 or fewer for each cohort at elementary schools and 18 or fewer at the middle school level.

There will be two cohorts for K-8 students in phase four of the West Bloomfield School District’s Classroom to Cloud Return to Learn plan, with approximately 15 or fewer for each cohort at elementary schools and 18 or fewer at the middle school level.

Photo provided by Daniel Durkin

Advertisement

WEST BLOOMFIELD — The roadmap for what the upcoming school year will look like has begun to become clearer for West Bloomfield School District parents and students.

The district recently shared its Classroom to Cloud Return to Learn plan, which was approved by the West Bloomfield Board of Education via a 6-1 vote at a special meeting July 27.

The dissenting vote was cast by Trustee Carol Finkelstein, who could not be reached for comment on the vote.

According to an email from West Bloomfield Board of Education President Stacy Brickman, Finkelstein expressed interest in delaying the vote until more information became available, but Brickman wrote that, “It is our practice that the Board of Education governs as a whole. Once a decision is made, our Board members stand behind that decision.”

According to a release, “The plan is tied directly to the governor’s Return to School Roadmap, which aligns to the MI Safe Start Plan.”

The region is currently in phase four of the MI Safe Start Plan.

In phases one through three, learning is totally remote, with no in-school or face-to-face instruction.

The current phase four status has given the district a chance to offer blended learning, with some students receiving both in-school and remote instruction.

That option is available for K-8 students.

Students in Cohort A will attend in-person instruction Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings and will participate in remote learning in the afternoon.

Students in Cohort B will learn remotely in the morning and will attend in-person instruction Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons.

On Wednesdays, learning will be remote only, in order to allow for schools to be deep cleaned and sanitized.

The district intends to set up a curbside meal distribution system at West Bloomfield High School on Wednesdays for families to pick up five days’ worth of meals.

Hot lunches on-site are not being offered.

The expectation is to have approximately 15 students or fewer for student cohorts at elementary schools and 18 or fewer at the middle school level.

The blended learning option is not being offered for students in grades nine-12, as WBSD Superintendent Dr. Gerald Hill said, “It would be pretty close to impossible to do social distancing,” for the nearly 1,800 students at the high school level. Therefore, grades nine-12 will be entirely online.

Hill discussed what the blended format entails for K-eight students.

“If you’re a first grade student, you might go to class in the morning and then go home, and there’s a 90-minute break,” he said. “And then there’s afternoon, online virtual kind of lessons. That’s true for all those grades.”

Temperature checks are not expected to be required.

The expectation is for the bus schedule to follow the half-day instructional model, with a pick-up and drop-off for each cohort in the a.m. and p.m. each of the four days of in-person instruction.

The district will continue to offer Lakers Online, which is a fully remote option for K-12 students.

According to the release, Oakland Early College will continue with the district’s original blended model. It is a two days in person and three days remote learning model.

Kim Abel is the district’s lead mentor and the president of the West Bloomfield Education Association. She shared her thoughts about the plan.

“We’ve created committees in the building and at each grade level to come up with a plan that would be safe for both students and staff to return to school,” Abel said. “I think we have a good plan. The high school, unfortunately, we couldn’t come up with a safe environment to guarantee 18 students in a classroom or less. … We can’t space them apart effectively and follow the guidelines that the emergency order holds for schools.”

According to Abel, all students and staff have to wear masks.

Despite data indicating that Michigan isn’t “even close” to it, Hill discussed the possibility of eventually moving into phase five of the state’s plan.

“If we’re fortunate enough as a state to get to phase five, we will still offer our Lakers Online for anybody who desires to have it, but there would be regular, in-person instruction five days per week,” Hill said.

Hill has worked in education for “many years,”  and he said this is an unprecedented time.

“There’s never been a time like this in education,” Hill said. “For example, there’s never been a time in my 40 years of being in education where I didn’t know what was (going to) happen on the first day of school at this point in the summer. … We don’t really know right now what’s going to happen because of the coronavirus, the fluidity of the situation.”

As is the case with so many other facets of life, Hill thinks politics has played a role in the current state of the educational system.

“The other thing that’s a huge factor is that the politics have become so partisan over this pandemic that we’ve somehow as a country, in my opinion, lost focus on what we should be doing to ensure the health and safety, in particular of the K-12 student population,” he said. “I feel a little bit like it’s pawns in a game of chess or political football happening because our leaders are not, in my opinion, working in a bi-partisan and fully cooperative manner. I think it’s too politicized of an environment, and that has its impact on any kind (of) decisions that we make at the K-12 level.”

Despite the disruption the pandemic caused within the educational system, Hill thinks some positives have come from it.

From his perspective, one of those positives is that district staff members have “become much more adept at learning and understanding how to teach differently.”

“When you do a pared-down version of teaching and learning, you focus on less is more,” Hill said. “So there’s a sharper focus on the more powerful, helpful skills to know and learn. … I think assessment is another huge one. Our country, our nation, has been fixated on high-stakes assessments for evaluating teachers, for evaluating schools, whether kids are promoted or not promoted. Some of the high-stakes testing, from my experience and opinion, are rather arbitrary.”

Hill added that, “There are a number of educational reforms that can be accelerated by this crisis.”

Advertisement