By Megan Kelley
After several challenging months for Lake Orion Community Schools, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the district as students returned to in-person learning on Tuesday.
The district has had students who were supposed to go to school in-person learning in a fully remote setting since mid-November, while several hundred students have been enrolled in the fully online option Dragon Virtual.
During the school board meeting on Wednesday, Superintendent Ben Kirby referred to data that he believes points to the district being ready to bring students back in-person.
“We’re ready for our in-person instruction,” Kirby said. “Our numbers have been declining and sustaining for the most part.”
As vaccinations begin to roll out, teachers and other school staff are now able to receive their vaccines. In addition to this, positive trends as far as testing abilities add to the acquired confidence that the district is prepared moving forward.
To get children back into classrooms, in the months before the new year, LOCS was working to create a safe and healthy environment, maintain consistent and continuous in-person learning and minimize contacts between staff and students.
“Our goals moving forward is to continue to provide a safe and healthy environment for students and staff, and then also consistent and continuous in-person learning. We really want to try to avoid the stops and starts and really, frankly, for all of us, even families, it’s like starting a new school year every time we do that,” Kirby said. “And ultimately, minimizing the contacts, which is really what causes the quarantines that we face so much of.”
When students are back into classrooms, the traditional setup is vastly different.
Elementary students are attending four-hour and 15-minute morning sessions in-person, with asynchronous/independent learning happening at a remote setting in the afternoon. This setup is done purposefully to avoid having students eating their lunch in school, district officials said.
The middle school plan is similar to that of the high school plan, where students will be split up into two groups: Green and White.
The groups will be on alternating schedules, for example: 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, but 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.
School lunches and breakfast will be grab-and-go style for K-12 students; however, elementary and middle school students are expected to have some sort of snack time.
Special education students’ schedules are determined by the IEP Team and/or CLP. The Pine Tree Center is open for in-person students from 8:45 a.m. – 1:45 p.m. daily.
Additionally, Learning Options, because of the number of students, will be able to meet in-person daily.
Early childhood resumed its normal schedule on Jan. 19 as well. Before and after school care was also made available.
The district’s last positive case was reported on Dec. 4 after an employee at the Pine Tree Center received a positive test result. Lake Orion schools have reported 64 total positive cases of COVID-19 since August.
The district is expected to hold their next regular school board meeting virtually at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 27.