Students learn in person at West Bloomfield Middle School. The West Bloomfield School District and Walled Lake Consolidated School District have returned to in-person learning instruction.

Students learn in person at West Bloomfield Middle School. The West Bloomfield School District and Walled Lake Consolidated School District have returned to in-person learning instruction.

Photo provided by Daniel Durkin


West Bloomfield, Walled Lake school districts return to in-person instruction

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 22, 2021

 Kristina Metzenthin leads instruction at Doherty Elementary School in West Bloomfield. The West Bloomfield School District and Walled Lake Consolidated School District have returned to in-person instruction, with students separated into cohorts in order to limit the number of people in schools at one time.

Kristina Metzenthin leads instruction at Doherty Elementary School in West Bloomfield. The West Bloomfield School District and Walled Lake Consolidated School District have returned to in-person instruction, with students separated into cohorts in order to limit the number of people in schools at one time.

Photo provided by Daniel Durkin

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WEST BLOOMFIELD/WALLED LAKE — Both the West Bloomfield and the Walled Lake Consolidated school districts have returned to offering in-person instruction.

Using a hybrid model, WBSD K-8 students returned Jan. 19, followed by high school students Jan. 28.

In order to have fewer students in a building at a time, the district has adopted an a.m. and p.m. cohort model.

The a.m. students attend school in the morning, which is followed by asynchronous learning at home, with the opposite schedule for p.m. students.

Asynchronous learning occurs when students and teachers are not interacting at the same time or from the same location, with students accessing learning content at their own pace.

It is a four-day schedule with busing provided.

There is no in-person instruction on Wednesdays, with students having asynchronous work to do remotely.

Food is offered at the end of cohorts at the exits and is not consumed at school.

Masks are required, with social distancing practiced.

Lakers Online is still an option for families not comfortable with in-person instruction.

West Bloomfield resident Brian McIsaac has a fifth-grader at Scotch Elementary School, an eighth-grader at West Bloomfield Middle School and a 10th grader at West Bloomfield High School.

He is a proponent of the district’s hybrid system.

McIsaac thinks being online has been a struggle for “even the best of students.”

“They were thrust into a situation where it’s almost a college-level situation, where they were online all the time,” McIsaac said. “I think the communication with the teachers was difficult. And then there’s this whole social end of things that I think was difficult for many, many kids.”

Elementary through high school students have also returned to in-person instruction in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District.

As with West Bloomfield, Walled Lake Schools has also adopted an A-B cohort.

The elementary school students returned Nov. 9, and middle and high school students returned Jan. 20.

“It was always our goal to return to in-person instruction,” said Cathy Kochanski, the assistant superintendent of learning services for the district. “We know in-person instruction is what’s best for kids. That’s kind of the top priority.”

Remote learning is also still being offered for students in the district.

Kochanski said the return to in-person instruction has been “going great.”

“Kids were happy,” she said. “Even though they had their masks on, you could see happy faces and happy eyes behind the masks. I saw kids being able to dialogue and have exchange within their classrooms.”

Precautions include staggered arrivals and dismissals to avoid congregating in the hallways, social distancing, and hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

As for teachers’ preference between virtual and in-person instruction, Kochanski said “it’s a mix.”

“You have some teachers with health conditions or pre-existing conditions, and being back in a classroom with kids, that comes with some level of risk,” she said. “That makes them feel a little bit different about returning. Some of our teachers were ready to get back at it, very positive about it. … We continue to offer those fully virtual options, which I think satisfies both our families and our teachers.”

For those who are comfortable with in-person instruction, the difference it has made can be hard to measure.

“Students who have needed some level of that human interaction in an in-person setting for their social and emotional well-being, those are some positive things that we’ve been seeing and hearing from our students and our families about the option to be in-person,” Kochanski said. “When students are in an in-person environment, that helps them to have a better social connection to their peers and to their teacher — that helps them learn better.”

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