By Megan Kelley
The Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education met for their regularly scheduled meeting on July 22. The main focus of discussion revolved around the district’s return to school plan this fall, presented by Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Heidi Mercer.
Michigan is currently in phase four of the state’s reopening plan. In phase four, schools are able to open under very stringent guidelines. It is recommended that districts offer an online option for those who do not wish to send their children back to school for traditional in-person learning.
LOCS previously released information on the additional requirements that districts must adhere to during a phase four reopening. This included requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE), busing, cleaning, hygiene, screening, positive cases, athletics and gatherings.
Personal Protective Equipment:
• Students and staff must wear face masks in common areas, except at meals.
• Students in grades 6-12 and post-secondary must wear masks in classrooms.
• All students in grades DK-5 must wear masks in common areas; however, they are not required to wear masks in class.
• Hand sanitizer must be used by students upon boarding.
• Bus driver, staff and all students on the bus must wear a mask.
• Buses must be cleaned before every round including frequently touched surfaces and any additional equipment on it.
• There must be a plan in place for getting students home if they have not been cleared to ride the bus.
• Symptomatic students cannot ride the bus.
• Doors and windows must remain open when cleaning.
• Frequently touched surfaces.
• Hands-on classrooms (art classrooms, media centers) must be cleaned in-between every group of students.
• Desks must be wiped down after every period with different students or if students switch classrooms.
• Playground structures will be cleaned as normal.
• Safe use of cleaning products.
• Staff must wear gloves, mask and face shield while cleaning.
• The district must provide supplies to support healthy hygiene.
• Teach and reinforce handwashing.
• Cooperate with public health department for screening and protocols.
• Indoor assemblies will be prohibited.
• Comply with the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) and National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) guidelines.
• Students and staff must wash hands before and after every practice and game.
• Equipment must be disinfected before and after use.
• Teams must wear masks on the bus.
• Spectators must wear masks and observe six-feet of social distancing.
• Individual water bottles must be used.
• No handshakes, fist bumps, etc.
• No indoor weight rooms or training with shared equipment.
• No large-scale indoor spectator events.
• Large-scale outdoor events are limited to 100 spectators.
Under these guidelines, LOCS has put together two expansive options for returning to school in the fall: in-person learning and virtual learning.
Families who choose the in-person learning option will have their student in school buildings five days a week.
“This is where we will receive our traditional in-person education with elementary in classrooms, secondary rotating class just like they typically would,” Mercer said. “We will be employing health and safety protocols.”
Transportation will be provided by LOCS and common areas will be social distanced (lunches, specials with modifications, etc.)
“In the in-person programming, it could be, that for a period of time, we are forced to go remote. And what that means in that there is a transition in the learning. So, for instance, if there were to be a COVID outbreak or the State of Michigan goes back to phase three, that would put all of our in-person students into remote learning,” said Mercer. “I will tell you that this remote learning plan we are developing, is extremely different than the spring. We have to remember, that the spring, we were reacting to an emergency. If we go into remote learning this coming fall, we’re in a much different situation in that we have been able to plan for it…we’re rolling out a huge PD (professional development) series starting the first week in August. So, I do want to reassure people and have people know that this remote plan is very different and will not compare to what happened in the spring.”
Mercer stressed the point that remote learning is meant to be temporary and will only be activated if the State of Michigan enters phases 1-3 or when in-person learning is not possible (such as if there is a positive case in the classroom)
Even during a remote learning situation, classes will be taught by LOCS educators and student participation, assignments and activities will be required.
Families do not have to register for the in-person program; students just have to be enrolled in the district and have all of their information up to date.
“I think it’s very important to point out again that on Sept. 8 we plan to offer in-person instruction for those families who want that. For a majority of students, research shows that in-person learning supports social-emotional and academic learning at the highest level,” Mercer said. “LOCS Administration determined that any type of in-person schedule, with less than a full five-day week would really not benefit our students and families. Having LOCS staff in traditional roles, albeit with more flexible remote teaching skills, providing our students with the most consistent education connecting with our staff members is critical.”
Later, Mercer broke down what the in-person learning option will look like on a daily basis.
LOCS is currently working with the designer of the app Clear To Go, a self-screening app that students and staff will be required to complete each day before entering a district facility or boarding a district bus. Alternatives will be made available, LOCS will have more details at a later date.
Additionally, students and staff must wear a face mask when entering the building unless a medical exception is provided, the individual is under two-years-old or is unable to remove his/her own mask.
Classrooms will be set up by the district to allow the maximum amount of social distance possible. Teachers will not be permitted to rearrange their classrooms. Students will not share lockers or cubbies.
Elementary students will remain in their classrooms throughout the day, including during lunch. The district will be making efforts to bring art, music, PE and media to classrooms. Masks will not be required in the classroom but are recommended. However, students must wear face masks in hallways and common areas.
As for recess, students will not be required to wear a mask outdoors as long as six feet social distance is maintained. Equipment will be limited to the number of students able to maintain social distancing. Students must wash hands before and after playing on the playground and handheld equipment will be disinfected between usage.
Secondary education students (grades 6-12) are required to wear masks in classrooms and in common areas. Class schedules are anticipated to be designed to stagger transition periods. Directional markers will be placed in hallways and there is expected to be a reduction in the sharing of equipment and materials.
Additionally, students will not be permitted to congregate in hallways and secondary education students will not be using lockers. Students are encouraged to carry backpacks.
Secondary education students will however maintain the traditional rotating lunch schedules. Masks will not be required during eating and drinking, therefore six feet of social distancing will be enforced. Additional spaces will be utilized to allow students to spread out and comply with social distancing guidelines.
All students will wash their hands and use hand sanitizer multiple times throughout the day and class sizes will be determined by enrollment, however, administrators have stated they will try to keep classes at or below traditional levels.
Field trips and assemblies will not be permitted.
If there is a positive case, the individual must remain home for a minimum of 14 days.
“Any student who tests positive for COVID must remain home…any individual with a fever cannot return to an LOCS facility until they are 72 hours fever free without fever-reducing medication and we’ll require all positive COVID-19 tests to be reported to school administration by families to initiate contact tracing,” said Mercer.
Individuals who had been in close contact with the individual must also remain out of school for 14 days. This includes all family members and any students or staff who were within six feet for at least 15 minutes.
“We will transition students to remote learning for any duration of a quarantine if necessary. A classroom, bus, or individual group or activity could be closed under LOCS protocols. If a classroom is required to quarantine, students, again, will be allowed and will be moved to remote learning until they return to school,” Mercer said. “If an individual tests positive for COVID. That individual is out for a minimum of 14 days and then that group, that class that that student is in is then closed. Parents will be notified if there happens to be a positive tested student within that class and then they would move to remote learning.”
LOCS is expecting the Oakland County Health Division to establish a county-wide school protocol. At that time, LOCS will defer to that process.
Students are encouraged to stay home if they are not feeling well regardless of symptoms.
“This really is going to take our entire community to ensure a safe and smooth transition back to school…we are committed to making sure our students have a successful transition back to school,” Mercer said.
Families that refuse to follow district protocol will not be able to participate in in-person learning.
“If there is a problem they’ll have to go to Dragon Virtual. It’s not an option,” Mercer said, adding that they have yet to have an issue in any of their programs that are currently running (football practice, Camp Wanna Have Fun, etc.)
Please see next week’s issue for part 2, virtual learning.