Local School Districts Discuss Fall 2020 Plans

Local School Districts Discuss Fall 2020 Plans

UPDATE: MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - The Haslett School Board did not take action at their School Board Meeting on July 27th. We will continue to follow this story as it develops.

ORIGINAL STORY: MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - K-12 schools are set to reopen in about a month. For many years in the past, this means scrambling to the store to purchase new clothes, highlighters, pencils, folders and more. This year, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are unsure if schools are even going to open their doors.

At the end of last month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her plan for allowing Michigan schools to reopen. She called it the MI Safe Schools Roadmap. The roadmap gives schools different requirements based on what phase the state is regarding the coronavirus. Each phase has a list of requirements and recommended procedures that schools need and/or should follow during that time.

Both of Meridian Township’s school districts, Haslett and Okemos, are taking more safety precautions than what is required in Gov. Whitmer’s plan in order to keep students as safe as possible in the event of reopening.

In the current phase of phase four, schools are required to have all students and staff wear a mask. Okemos and Haslett are also looking at more ways to implement social distancing.

“We believe that because this has been going on for quite a period of time, most families are used to wearing masks. They are now required by the governor every time you go out,” said Haslett Superintendent Steven Cook. “We’re gonna make that an expectation. I think that most of our students get it. We have expectations, just as we have with behavior and other types of things.”

“Our board is taking a very conservative approach. If we’re going to have kids back in the building in the fall, it’s going to be with masks and it’s going to be with six foot social distancing,” said Dean Bolton, President of the Okemos School Board. “We will ask for masks, and have everybody, students and staff, wear masks.”

In Haslett, if in-person instruction resumes, students and families will have a choice on whether or not they would like to attend school in-person or continue their instruction 100% online.

“We want to offer families choices, and if we do an in-person option, the likelihood that there's also gonna be an online component of that too will also be the case,” said Cook. “So really, what we’re trying to do is create an online platform curriculum such that whether you’re in school or not in school, you’re following the same pattern through an online platform.”

Both schools have implemented a 1:1 electronic device initiative. This means that every student from Okemos and Haslett schools has a district-issued device that may be used for any type of online learning.

Earlier this spring, the Okemos School District sent out a survey to identify families that have issues with internet access, and they have been working on figuring out a way to provide internet to those families. Haslett is sending out a similar survey with the same goal to provide families with some form of internet connection that will make online education possible.

Haslett and Okemos are now more prepared to deliver online learning than they were in the spring when school was suddenly moved online.

On Thursday, July 23, the Okemos school board adopted the resolution to have the first nine weeks of school be held online. The following weeks will be determined at a later date.

“We have staff that are working on improving the areas that need improvement so that we can deliver a more robust online learning in the fall,” said Bolton.

Cook said that Haslett is absolutely ready for another semester online. Seesaw and Google Classroom will be the two different platforms that students will be using to get their education. Both asynchronous and synchronous learning will be used to give off a more in-person feel to the instruction.

“The research says that nothing can really replace in-person instruction, but I believe that we’re going to do the best job to make it as close as possible as we can to a face to face experience,” said Cook.

If a student tests positive while in school, Cook said that the Ingham County Health Department will direct how the school will proceed with the case. After their investigation, recommendations will be made to the school which will then decide if anything needs to be put under quarantine, whether that is a classroom, the building, or the school district itself.

MHSAA is currently in charge of determining what sports will look like in the fall. Other extracurricular activities will most likely be limited or canceled due to the inability to practice the necessary safety protocols.

“It's hard to imagine that there is a way that contact sports can be done safely in the fall,” said Bolton. “It’s going to be very difficult to have a choir, or an orchestra, or do a play, maintaining the social distancing that we know needs to happen.”

Haslett will be meeting tonight, Monday, July 27, to finalize their Fall 2020 plans.

“There’s a lot of questions, I believe, that the board members want to have answered before they make a decision,” said Cook. “We’re going to present those options and what they look like to the board, they’re gonna ask questions, and then hopefully they’ll make a decision.”

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