Michigan high school students are not allowed to learn in-person starting Wednesday, Nov. 18, due to the latest emergency order by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). This is due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.
Fenton Area Public Schools Superintendent Adam Hartley wrote a letter to parents after the announcement was made. Fenton high school and middle school students will learn remotely starting Wednesday, Nov. 18, and Young 5s and K-5 students will begin a remote schedule Monday, Nov. 23.
“Our target date for a return to face-to-face instruction is Jan. 19, 2021 (Beginning of second semester),” Hartley said.
In his letter, Hartley said they’ve been working with the Genesee County Health Department, and the Fenton Board of Education has been evaluating certain factors as they pertain to providing safe, in-person schooling.
“The increasing cases of COVID-19 within our area continue to have a detrimental effect on the factors above at each of our school buildings,” Hartley said. “Along with face-to-face instruction, the restrictions communicated by MDHHS include all after school activities, clubs and athletics be suspended as well. The MHSAA communicated their restrictions last night and Mike Bakker, FAPS athletic director, sent out a letter to our student athletes and their families.”
Appropriate K-12 staffing
“The last few weeks have become difficult to staff classrooms appropriately. As more teachers and support staff are quarantined, and guest teachers are becoming less and less available, we have had to transition a number of K-5 classrooms to a virtual setting. Our elective teachers have been covering classrooms, which means our students are not receiving Art, Music or P.E. as they should. At the secondary level, teachers have to cover rooms during their prep time, which takes away their time to prep for their own courses.”
Community spread and the impact on the school community
“A good example of the connection between community spread and how it impacted the school setting is what occurred over the Halloween weekend. The uptick of cases outside the school community led to a number of staff and students being quarantined by the health department. We expect the same trend for Thanksgiving and the December holiday season.”
“We continue to experience a lag in contact tracing due to the number of cases increasing throughout the county. This has directly impacted our ability as school leaders to know who has tested positive or who was exposed to a positive case in a timely manner. Our administrative team continues to spend an enormous amount of time helping the health department to contact trace within the school setting and communicating with families that are impacted by a positive COVID-19 case. The lag in contact tracing could place our staff and students in an unsafe environment if people are attending face-to-face instruction before they are notified of the possible exposure by the county.”
“Both the state models and the expected trends by the county show an increase of cases throughout the next few months. While these trends may change, we, along with many other Genesee County school districts, know that cases will rise with indoor gatherings and the holiday season upon us. As cases rise, the factors listed here grow as barriers to face to face instruction.”
Mitigating the circle of exposure
“We have had over 30 positive cases within our school district since October 1st, and over 650 staff and students quarantined by the health department. As we follow the protocols of the COVID-19 Schoolkit, we have
had a number of staff and students, not listed on our dashboard, that have been isolated due to COVID-19 symptoms or due to needing to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19 in a classroom, hallways or building.”
Hartley said, “As I stated in previous communications, we as a school community have worked together to return to school, experience in-person instruction and enjoy what we all want for our learners. Unfortunately, COVID-19 does not care what we want or what model of instruction we prefer. We will continue to evaluate the key metrics within the county, assess the key factors listed above and work together in order to return once again to in-person teaching and learning by our target date of Jan. 19, 2021.”
More information and links are available at fentonschools.org.