By Megan Kelley
While uncertainty looms during daily life for nearly everyone, it remains an almost constant point of discussion at Lake Orion Community Schools school board meetings.
Kicking off their May 27 meeting was a public participation emailed to the board by district parent Melissa Reisler.
“My question to the board is: if Lake Orion is considered an elite school district, why were we so late to the game?” Reisler wrote.
Reisler went on to express her concern over how the district handled the pandemic and their lack of preparedness, thus causing her to lose confidence in the district moving forward.
“I’m glad the district is planning on having a survey to prepare for the fall. I hope the statistics of the survey will be visible to all families in the district. I for one will be all for going back to school as normal, without masks, because if that’s the case my children will not be returning,” Reisler said. “I’m pretty sure all returning-to-work families will need in-school teaching and learning, and the fact that this virus doesn’t affect ages 0-18 should be the reason for in-school teaching. Anyone who doesn’t want to return should be allowed to continue learning online from recorded classroom lessons sent out via email.”
(Editor’s Note: COVID-19 affects people of all of ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Reisler is not the first to issue a statement to the board through public participation regarding the handling of at-home learning.
Some parents have also raised concerns about the district’s current policy on grading and classwork requirements. However, Reisler does appear to be the first parent to call for students to return to school in the fall and without masks.
Without knowing what the state of our nation, state, county or township will look like come September, it’s impossible for the district to commit to such a demand.
As for the concerns regarding the teaching staff and their preparedness for at-home learning, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Heidi Mercer was sure to mention that most K-12 teachers are not trained in this form of educating.
“There seems to be some thought that all teachers are trained in remote learning and you can just flip a switch and the next day you can go to remote learning that is efficient and effective. That’s not the case. So, as we do in Lake Orion, we work to make sure that we get things right and that we produce something that is of quality and that takes professional development. I’m very proud of the work we have done and we continue to provide professional development,” Mercer said. “I want to stress that this is something that is just not…you don’t just flip a switch and teach remotely, that’s just not the way that it’s done. And frankly, I’m not going to sit here and say that that’s what we’re doing and not be transparent…we have made sure that we’re working with our teachers and continuing to support them and providing them professional development. And I have to say, I think that it is going very well on their end…there has been an extreme amount of growth.”
On Monday, Governor Whitmer announced that she would be rescinding the “Safer at Home” order and move Michigan to phase four of the MI Safe Start Plan.
Retailers and restaurants are permitted to open at limited capacity on June 4 and 8 respectively.
What this will mean for K-12 education is still unclear. However, LOCS is continuing to assess the situation in order to be prepared for whatever kind of re-opening of K-12 are able to have come September.
One of the key points for effective at-home learning is access to technology for both students and staff.
“Technology; we’ve been working really hard to produce resources for staff and families on our website and a portal has been launched,” said Mercer. “I’ve also been working with our technology and the bond. Planning for fall, if there is a need for us to continue with remote learning, we do need more devices.”
Luckily for LOCS, having recently passed their $160 million school bond, they have the ability to purchase and distribute technology throughout the district.
During the meeting, the board voted unanimously to purchase 1,709 two-in-one laptop computers from Sehi Computer Products in the amount of $1.2 million dollars. This is purchase is not new to the bond, however. The district had originally outlined the purchase of this technology in a later part of the bond but due to the current situation, decided to move this particular purchase up in order to get the technology in the hands of students quicker. Should the district be unable to open fully in the fall, these laptops would be used for remote learning or even possibly hybrid style learning.
“We’re moving up the number of devices and if we happen to be in school in the fall, we’ll just redistribute them as originally planned,” Mercer said. “I have to say if we had not passed the bond and had not had had a jumpstart on technology, I can’t even imagine. We were fortunate enough that we started off with the high school, all of the teachers, receiving laptops. That was only since the bond, we’re in the first year of that. So with the middle school now coming on and the elementary, this will obviously help the situation…every day I thankful that this bond passed because we would be in a very different situation right now if it had not.”