As COVID-19 begins to take on another phase, the scramble to online teaching, what will it look like to resume school in the Fall? In speaking with education professionals and analyzing district plans, here are some ways in which some Metro Detroit districts are handling reopening.
When Michigan schools ended in-person classes back in March due to the Coronavirus, plans of action were varied and many in the field of education had to adapt to online or at-home platforms quickly. With Summer well on its way, some Metro Detroit schools have begun to release plans on how they plan to resume school in the Fall with added precautions.
How some districts plan to resume school in the Fall is ultimately up to how COVID-19 looks at the end of August and into early September. While numbers have fallen, the potential for a second wave of COVID-19 is a real possibility, one that many in the field of education are considering when they formulate plans to resume school in the fall semester.
We looked into some of the ways schools, both public and private, will approach by moving to a hybrid model of teaching that will utilize online platforms more regularly while others may move to an alternating system of education that would see students in class one week and online the next. While different, the overall trend is showing that in the face of an uncertain future, school administrators and education professionals are spending the summer preparing how to resume school with the best interest, health, and safety of students in mind.
WHAT ARE SOME DISTRICTS PLANNING FOR WHEN THEY RESUME SCHOOL?
The Detroit Public Schools Community District [DPSCD] recently released the DPSCD Official Draft COVID Reopening Plan, which essentially calls for a few potential scenarios to resume school in the Fall. When students return, they will see smaller classrooms, a shorter day of around six hours and daily screenings for COVID-19 symptoms.
On top of monitoring for symptoms in students, DPSCD staff will also be subject to mandatory testing within two weeks of returning to work. Additionally, since all 51,000 students will receive a laptop as part of the Connected Futures initiative, DPSCD will be moving toward implementing a mix of virtual and face-to-face teaching options.
Detroit Catholic Central Highschool in Novi acted quickly in March to address COVID-19, streamlining their digital response so that all teachers were able to utilize the same format when teaching online. Being a one-to-one school, this meant that all students were able to use their existing technology to continue schooling online.
Being prepared, the school established the Catholic Central COVID Committee, which sees educational leaders in the school working to address various health and safety issues students may face. With plans underway for face-to-face teaching to begin again in August, the option for a hybrid model of schooling is on the table if the need for it arises.
In discussing some of the measures the school implemented, Dave Lewis, Assistant Principal at Catholic Central, shared, “In order to make this successful, the school has made a huge commitment to investing in the type of technology that will allow us to do things like video conferencing, creating videos, creating recorded lectures, doing live streaming of classes, the type of stuff so that, whether you’re here face to face, or whether you’re at home, you’re going to have the ability to still continue on with your education.”
“I just think that the students are going to have more opportunities for different classes with all the digital learning that’s going on now and I think students are going to have many more opportunities for advanced learning,” added Mitch Hancock, the Dean of Students. “So if they want to take a class at a community college or through a different organization, they may be able to do that digitally. I just see a lot more opportunities for students a lot more opportunities for teachers as well to be involved in education.”
On top of having the option for a quick transition to online teaching, when students resume school in the Fall, Catholic Central will also be implementing a one entry system in which students will face temperature checks and hand sanitizer before entering the building. Additionally, students and staff will wear masks while inside the building, and while encouraged to bring masks from home, the school will have them on-site if a student misplaces theirs before entering the building.
Another district, Lamphere Schools, in Madison Heights, worked to provide laptops and WiFi hotspots to students and families that needed them back in March as part of the shift to online teaching. The process saw staff utilize Zoom and Google Classroom to conduct classes. At the same time, the district surveyed students and parents to ensure the emotional well-being of students was in the right place following the rapid change to teaching.
Building off of their initial response, the district is actively working to prepare for the upcoming school year so that the best choices for students are considered.
In discussing one way the district is preparing for the Fall, Dale Steen, Superintendent of Lamphere Schools, Stated, “Our plan right now is we’re going to our board and purchasing more devices so we’ll be one-to-one, every kid will have a device going into the school year as long as they come in in time, so that way if something does need to change or be hybrid or, or completely at home, we won’t have to redistribute computers every kid will have a device.”
Steen also shared that while there is no set plan as of yet, the district is prepared for three scenarios just in case. One being if all students return to facilities, the second being a hybrid model, which similar to other districts would see alternations from online to in-person teaching and the last scenario the school district is preparing for is a return to fully online teaching.
With a few months left until students resume school, the months of summer will be spent ensuring the best measures are in place for students that take all health and safety aspects into account.
In the city of Ferndale, the situation is much of the same as others, with Ferndale Public Schools preparing, but not yet committing to an exact plan until closer to the beginning of the school year. Speaking to members of the district on Facebook live, Dania Bazzi, Superintendent of Ferndale Schools, said the school district was looking at three options when students resume school in the Fall.
“Going into next year we are really looking at three different models,” shared Bazzi. “one that includes in-person education, which obviously certain things would have to be adjusted to be able to do that in the Fall without a vaccine present. Also, hybrid models where less students are in the building, and then part of the learning is virtual. Then obviously, the way we see it, the worst-case option, completely virtual. Nothing can replace in-person connections and relationships that teachers and staff have with students, so again, our hope is to be back in school, with it being safe.”
Unable to commit to a plan as of yet, Bazzi stated that the district would be closely monitoring the situation, listening to guidance from Governor Whitmer and looking at data as more businesses reopen. Until that point, the district would be working to ensure that all plans are adequately accounted for and that the safest course of action is taken.
As the situation around schooling develops, further updates will be provided. In the meantime, where COVID-19 goes in the coming summer months will ultimately determine the best course of actions schools take. Be it online, in-person, or hybrid, it’s apparent that in talking with educators, the best interests of students and staff are being considered.