Elementary students expected back Oct. 26
By Megan Kelley
The past few months have been difficult for everyone, especially those with young children enrolled in school.
With Lake Orion Community Schools currently fully remote, parents and grandparents throughout the district have not held their tongue for long. On social media platforms, as well as letters and emails sent directly to LOCS administration and board members, to say there have been concerns is an understatement.
With feedback received from members of the community, as well as positive COVID-19 trends in the area, LOCS spent the majority of their Sept. 23 meeting discussing an updated return-to-school plan that included bringing elementary age students back into the classroom by Oct. 26.
“Continuity of learning, that has been the key in all of this and that’s what we’re really trying to accomplish,” Superintendent Ben Kirby said. “(It’s) important to note that we’re making decisions for students, for the employees that we have and then certainly our parents and community.”
Kirby then provided information on two options the district is expected to implement in the coming months. Option one: in-person learning; and option two: virtual learning.
Option one: in-person
In-person learning will be different depending on the child’s grade level. This means that elementary, middle school and high school students will not have the same guidelines. However, masks will be required at all times at each level.
“When we go into an in-person environment, that environment is going to look different than the environment that we all have become accustomed to and really enjoy and the regular classroom environment will still be stimulating, will still be a great experience for your children, but there will be a number of things that we’re going to have to do differently,” Kirby said.
Elementary students are expected to be brought back starting Oct. 26 in a phase-in format.
In this plan, elementary students in the first half of the alphabet would come to school for Oct. 26 and Oct. 27 while the second half of the alphabet would attend school in-person on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29.
On Oct. 30, all students would return to school. During this week, the days that students are not in the classroom they will receive independent work.
“This really allows our students and staff to work through our protocols and answer questions so that when we do come back with all of our in-person students, we will have a higher rate of success,” said Kirby.
Middle school students would have a new building orientation on Nov. 2.
Middle school’s phase-in format, much like at the elementary level, involves the first part of the alphabet reporting to school on Nov. 9 and Nov. 11, with the second part of the alphabet reporting on Nov. 10 and Nov. 12.
All middle school students will report to their school beginning on Nov. 13.
The high school’s phase in format involves splitting the student body into “Green” and “White” teams.
Starting the week of Nov. 9 the “Green” team will attend Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while the “White” team attends Tuesday and Thursday.
Each week the teams will alternate these schedules. District officials have not set a date when all high school students would return, but will remain on a rotating schedule until otherwise announced.
“This is a version of a hybrid…and this is something that a lot of different districts are doing in different capacities, different methods, but this is what we are looking at doing. We will determine the return of all students based on the successes that we have with this particular format,” Kirby said.
Additionally, school hours will run each day on the same schedule as a regular late start Wednesday from 9:40 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. with 8-8:45 a.m. being a set time for student support. Teachers will be in their classrooms to offer additional support instruction to students.
Because of the way this schedule is run, there will not be lunch served during the school day. The district will be providing lunch for students; however, it will be in a to-go bag/box for students to grab as they exit the building.
Learning options will also run on the same 9:40 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. schedule.
Option two: virtual learning
For elementary students, Dragon Virtual will be similar to the current remote learning format.
Registration for Dragon Virtual will take place Sept. 28 through Oct. 2 with no late registration accepted. This will also be a yearlong commitment.
Once Dragon Virtual numbers are counted after Oct. 2, those numbers will decide which teachers are Dragon Virtual teachers and which are in-person teachers, Kirby said.
Middle school and high school will have the same registration period for Dragon Virtual, however, the commitment will only be for one semester.
Kirby wrapped up his presentation by showing the positive trend in COVID-19 cases throughout the Orion area.
“One of the pieces of data that have been extremely valuable that they have been able to extrapolate these last four weeks that helps us is the COVID-19 date per 10,000 (people), and they have that by school districts,” Kirby said.
“I have them in order, when it first came out we were at (a rate of) 17.2 and then we went to 21.1, then we dropped to 14.5 and then we dropped last week to eight.
“That’s very encouraging for us to have three weeks of positive trend,” he said.
Since this meeting, the number of COVID-19 cases per 10,000 people has risen to 11.9, according to information on the Oakland County COVID-19 website.
The LOCS Board of Education spent some time after Kirby’s presentation asking questions about smaller details, including if breakfast will be provided for students, social emotional support and other technical matters, such as flexibility on late registration.
Kirby said his staff is still working on details and answers to those questions would come at a future meeting.