By Megan Kelley
The Lake Orion Community School’s Board of Education met virtually for their final meeting of 2020 on Dec. 16, and it was anticipated that during this meeting Superintendent Ben Kirby would unveil the district’s return to school plan, starting Jan. 19.
In October, LOCS transitioned in-person elementary students back into classrooms, with middle school and high school transitioning back to classrooms not long after. The district then shifted in-person students back to the remote setting on Nov. 18, later announcing plans to bring students back to classrooms on Jan. 19 of 2021.
While the district has selected a date for when they expect to bring students back into classrooms, it will not be the typical school day that parents have grown accustomed to.
The learning plan proposed, as Kirby explained, was selected due to the district’s hopes in achieving three goals:
• having a safe and healthy environment,
• maintaining consistent and continuous in-person learning and
• minimizing contact between staff and students.
“As far as where we want to go, again, I can’t emphasize enough that our goal is to get our students that want to be in-person back in-person five days a week, all day and we’re trying to be really thoughtful and knowledgeable about the information that we’ve learned to try and strive toward that goal,” said Kirby. “We think that we need to make some changes, these changes have come from within…we think we’ve come out with some really good ideas of how to accomplish these goals.”
In this plan, elementary students will attend school in-person for a four-hour, 15-minute morning session (8:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. for early start elementary schools, 9 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. for late start elementary schools) before heading home for independent/asynchronous learning. Independent learning is expected to include specials classes as well as social-emotional lessons.
The half-day model is due in large part to the district trying to avoid exposure issues that are created by eating lunch in the classroom, having special’s teachers and other staff moving from classroom to classroom throughout the day, Kirby said.
Because of this, lunch and breakfast will be provided through a grab-and-go system, allowing students to pick up that day’s lunch and the next morning’s breakfast on their way out of the building.
For middle school, the district aims to limit lunchtime exposure and reduce class sizes to allow better social distancing. In order to attain this, the middle school will have a similar schedule to that of the high school.
Students will be split up into two groups: Green and White. The groups will be on alternating schedules; for example, for week one, Green days will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday while White days that week will be Tuesday and Thursday.
Green and White days will alternate each week. For days that students are in-person, they will attend school from 7:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. and attend all of their classes. For days they are not in-person, they will have independent/asynchronous work.
High school students will have the same Green and White schedule only they will operate on the regular Late Start Wednesday schedule. On in-person days, students will attend from 9:40 a.m. – 2:35 p.m. and have all of their classes. On remote days they will have independent/asynchronous work.
Middle school and high school will also have grab-and-go lunch and breakfast available.
Special education students’ schedules will be determined by the IEP Team and/or CLP.
Additionally, Learning Options, because of the number of students, will be able to meet daily.
The Pine Tree Center is also expected to be open for in-person students from 8:45 a.m. – 1:45 p.m. daily.
Early childhood will resume as normal on Jan. 19 as well. Before- and after-school care will also be available starting on Jan. 19.
As far as Dragon Virtual, elementary students who enrolled in Dragon Virtual did so as a full-year commitment, while secondary education students were only asked to enroll on a semester-by-semester basis.
This means that Dragon Virtual enrollment will be open again for secondary education students who are currently enrolled in Dragon Virtual for the second semester from Jan. 4-8. Again, this enrollment for Dragon Virtual is only for students who are currently enrolled in Dragon Virtual — in-person students will not have the ability to enroll in Dragon Virtual, district officials said.
“We do recognize that this whole year has created a lot of flexibility/angst,” Kirby said. “We’re constantly trying to improve to make sure that we can provide that in-person instruction. We feel like doing what we’re doing is going to get us to a consistent level of in-person instruction…all-day, everyday is what our goal is for students who want in-person and we’ll continue to strive for that.”
Kirby also noted that in order to achieve an all-day, everyday model, there will have to be improvements in the COVID-19 data throughout the community.
Currently, within the district boundaries, there are 317 positive cases or 76.7 per 10,000 people.