Screenshot via YouTube - Three Rivers Community Schools Superintendent Ron Moag listens to public comments during Monday’s TRCS Board of Education meeting. More than 50 parents, community members and students spoke at the meeting regarding the district’s decision last week to return to hybrid learning.

TRCS looking to amend letter of agreement with teachers' union

Community members, parents, students blast district decision to move to hybrid learning

THREE RIVERS — A controversial letter of agreement between Three Rivers Community Schools Superintendent Ron Moag and the Three Rivers Education Association could soon be revised.

Following a half-hour closed session at Monday’s TRCS Board of Education work session, the board directed Moag to work with the district’s Return to Learn team and the TREA to amend an August letter of agreement between the two parties, a letter that was a main cause of the district deciding last week to return Three Rivers High School and Three Rivers Middle School to hybrid learning.

Board President Erin Nowak said the goal of the directive is for an amended version of the agreement to be presented at the board’s regular meeting on March 15, which could potentially result in a timeframe for the district to return to full in-person learning within the month. Hybrid learning began this week at the middle school and high school, but did not impact the elementary schools, which are still in-person.

The letter in question, signed prior to the beginning of the current school year on Aug. 20, 2020, laid out provisions that the district had to follow in order to allow for full in-person instruction in the district for the year. One of those provisions was that “the district shall ensure that no one shall be required to violate social distancing, shelter in place orders, or similar orders.” It also states that classrooms “shall comply” with CDC-recommended six-foot social distancing and the “strongly recommended” criteria from the state’s Phase 4 school reopening plan.

The letter was signed by Moag and TREA Co-Presidents Alisa Wilkins and Brian Burg, but was not ratified or reviewed by the Board of Education. According to Board Treasurer Julia Awe’s comments at their Feb. 23 meeting, board members didn’t even see the letter until the week prior, around the same time a grievance was filed by the TREA, and were not aware of it when voting on returning to in-person learning back in January. Multiple board members expressed frustration with the circumstances surrounding the letter at that meeting.

The issue surrounding the letter was one of the main catalysts for the district to return to hybrid learning, as well as a vote among the Return to Learn team that preferred the hybrid model to the in-person model because of social distancing issues in classrooms.

During public comment early on in the meeting prior to the revision announcement, a majority of the more than 50 parents, students and community members blasted the district for their decision to return to hybrid learning, with many citing students’ mental health, the “survival rate” of COVID-19, student performance in in-person settings versus hybrid settings, and the need for students to be in a school building for social interaction and structure.

Some commenters praised the district for their decision, thanking the board for keeping students’ health and safety in mind when making the decision.

Moag said the secondary schools’ Return to Learn team would meet on Tuesday and come up with a plan moving forward to get back to in-person learning.

“Our plan is to create a plan for getting kids back 100 percent as soon as we can,” Moag said. “We’re going to take into consideration all the metrics coming out of our health department, CDC, as well as taking a look at other mitigation strategies coming up. Everything’s going to be on the table with this team, and we’ll have an update on March 15.”

In other business…

* The board received an update from the district’s facilities and operations committee. Facilities Director Brian Leonard gave a presentation on the district’s proposed secure entry updates, showing renderings of the proposed entry layouts in all of the district buildings.

* The board received a curriculum committee report from Curriculum Director Nikki Nash. Nash said the district will look to update the middle school’s social studies curriculum with a three-year license for the myWorld curriculum, expected to cost between $23,000 and $24,000 per year. In addition, Nash said the district is looking into creating a virtual academy in time for Fall 2021.

* The board approved the hires of Shayna Brooks as a guidance counselor at the middle school, Jennifer Burg as a science teacher at the middle school and Angela Pearson as an English language arts teacher at the middle school.

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

Three Rivers Commercial-News

124 North Main Street
Box 130
Three Rivers, MI 49093

Telephone: 269-279-7488
Fax: 269-279-6007
General email: info@threeriversnews.com