TR Board of Education updated on school re-opening plan

THREE RIVERS — Three Rivers Community Schools curriculum and instruction director Nikki Nash gave the TRCS Board of Education an update on the district’s school re-opening plan during their meeting via teleconference Monday.

The update comes as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released the state’s Return to School Road Map, a 63-page document which includes detailed recommendations and requirements for school districts for the upcoming academic year.

Nash told board members she met with the district’s instructional teams Monday to look over the Road Map document and develop communication with families on what school will look like in the fall.

“We looked at it in different kind of layers. We want to give ourselves time to get through and look at all of the information as far as hashing it all out and having a good plan; it’ll take time to get that into place,” Nash said. “Our hope is by Friday to have an infographic, a quick snapshot of what the fall would look like for options and what our facilities may look like.”

Nash said they came up with four options when it comes to how the fall semester would work based on what phase of the MI Safe Start Plan the Kalamazoo region, the region which includes Three Rivers, is in come fall:

  • Traditional face-to-face instruction if the state is in Phase 6,
  • Hybrid/Blended learning, a blend of face-to-face and remote learning which Nash said would have students on a modified schedule, if the region is in Phase 4 or 5,
  • Remote learning, if the region is in Phase 1, 2 or 3, and
  • Virtual learning, for families who choose to opt out of face-to-face instruction for their kids.

With virtual learning, Nash said there are “several different pieces” for virtual learning services, and she and other team members are looking into what virtual learning service they would use for families that opt out.

Under hybrid/blended learning, Nash said the team is looking at an “A Group” and “B Group”-type schedule, which would have one group of students be in classrooms on Monday and Tuesday and have remote learning on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, while the other group would have remote learning on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and be in classrooms on Thursday and Friday.

Nash said the biggest questions regarding the school year is face coverings, saying there are some families that “don’t want to send their child to school with either staff wearing them mandatory or their student wearing them mandatory,” and student screenings.

Nash said the district would be following recommendations and requirements in the Road Map depending on which phase the region is in once the school year starts. The road map states that under Phase 4, face coverings must always be worn by PreK-12 students in hallways (except for meals) and school transportation, and must always be worn by grades 6-12 in classrooms. Face coverings would also be worn by staff. Those who cannot medically tolerate masks “must not wear one,” according to the document.

With screening, the Road Map states there will be a designated area for students who have symptoms of COVID-19, and Nash said the district will ask that families pick their students up “right away” when contacted to reduce the risk of infecting other people. Students and staff with symptoms at home will have to remain at home until they have a negative test, and families will be encouraged to take temperatures at home.

In addition, the following procedures would be in place, if the region is in Phase 4:

  • Family members would not be allowed in buildings.
  • Staggered movement throughout buildings.
  • Limiting the number of students in hallways.
  • Meals will be served in the classroom.
  • Families would be notified of any positive cases in school buildings, and the district would work closely with the Health Department on next steps.
  • Hand washing and hygiene will be re-enforced, with “adequate” soap and hand sanitizer available.

“A lot of this is more about the facilities and logistics, which I think is the biggest question almost more than the instructional piece of it,” Nash said, adding that Superintendent Ron Moag would also make a frequently-asked-questions video to go along with the guidelines.

Moag said the infographic would be available by the end of the week, with more details on the re-opening plan coming out next week.

Board Secretary Anne Riopel commented that there is a “possibility of over 200 families” opting out of face-to-face learning and choosing a virtual learning program, and saying those services could be costly, “at a time when we’re just not sure where the monies are coming from.” She said the district needs to review creating their own virtual learning program via livestreaming classes. Moag said costs related to virtual learning are built into the district’s CARES Act funds.

In other business…

  • The board approved the 2020-21 academic calendar. The first day of school, a half day, is scheduled for Aug. 24, and the calendar includes five full days off throughout the year for staff professional development. The last day of school is scheduled for June 3, 2021, with TRHS graduation scheduled for May 27, 2021.
  • The board tabled a vote on approving a letter to the community from the board addressing social justice and showing support for those who have “peacefully and constructively” protested the death of George Floyd. Some board members, including Board Vice President Dan Ryan and Trustee Linda Baker, said while it was good to have a letter, they expressed concern about its aggressive tone, as well as the lack of reference to the district’s strategic plan, where it talks about the district’s goals for diversity, inclusion and their goal for students to be “socially responsible citizens” upon graduation. The letter is expected to be revised and reworked for a future vote.
  • The board received an update from Facilities Director Brian Leonard on the progress made with safe and secure entrances for school buildings.
  • The board approved the hiring of Joseph Graber as a full-time science teacher at TRHS. The vote was 6-1, with Board Secretary Anne Riopel dissenting, explaining that she believed Graber did not have the requisite certification needed to be a high school science teacher.
  • The board approved the buyouts of TRHS science teacher Phil Anderson, Andrews Elementary fourth grade teacher Joyce Gyllstrom, Park Elementary kindergarten teacher Belinda Juhl and Park Elementary third grade teacher Cynthia McKnight.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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