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Blended learning may become the new norm as other schools begin to develop their COVID-19 plans. 

As summer begins to roll in, schools throughout the state of Michigan are already beginning to plan for what the fall will bring for their students, families and faculty members. With the effects of the coronavirus pandemic still looming, school districts are trying to find a new “norm.” 

For the past two months, schools have been involved with distance learning. Students and teachers alike have been faced with new challenges and are eager to get back into the classroom. Unfortunately, that may not be a possibility. 

One school district in particular, West Bloomfield, rolled out a plan on May 18 for the upcoming school year. The district is believed to be the first in the state to do so. Their plan, called “Classroom to Cloud,” provides a roadmap of three potential instructional methods for the fall.  

“We’re awaiting guidance from Governor Whitmer, who set up a task force that is going to be looking at the opening of schools,” said West Bloomfield Superintendent Gerald Hill. “They are just starting their work right now, but we thought we needed to get planning in advance of that.” 

The first plan, “Plan A,” is a blended instruction approach combining both online instruction and in-person instruction. This plan will split the student body in half and allow for 50% of students to come into the classroom on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other 50% to come in on Thursdays and Fridays. 

There will be a cleaning day on Wednesdays. when no one is in the schools. to provide a safe environment for students and faculty. When the students are not in the classroom are their designated days, they will be participating in remote learning. 

“Plan B” is a continuation of the remote learning that they have been participating in since March. This plan is strictly for if there is a continuation of a stay-at-home order and they need to be compliant with those guidelines.  

The other option, Plan C, provides the option of online instruction to students, parents and faculty. It would be provided as an option for students and parents in the event some do not feel comfortable returning to the classroom. 

“The purpose of having different choices is we want to make sure our families that we are serving have some options,” Hill said. “Everyone has different situations, different needs and different concerns so we want to make sure that we can satisfy whatever their concerns are and that they can select a plan that best fits their situation.” 

All of the plans are still under development and figuring out what instructional model is best for each plan. The three plans will also be a more competency-based instructional model, as opposed to more traditional methods. 

In addition to developing the instructional models, Hill and the rest of the district need to also begin forming class schedules for students and also implementing social distancing techniques within the classroom. 

“Schools are not built or designed for social distancing. It is quite the opposite in fact,” Hill said. “Our classrooms that traditionally house 20-30 students will now have 12-15 students in them. The furniture will now also be socially distanced and we will have to develop a plan for the cafeteria as well.” 

West Bloomfield shared their plan with the West Bloomfield Board of Education on Monday, May 18 and has held two Zoom community presentations on Thursday, May 21 and Friday, May 22 to address some questions and concerns of family members. 

Although fall seems far away, Hill wanted to begin developing their plans sooner rather than later to ensure that their families were informed of what the school district’s plans were and to also build their budgets since the budgets for school districts are due on June 30. 

Ann Arbor Public Schools also recently announced their plan for the upcoming school year as well. According to MLive, the school district is planning for a start date of August 31. Their instruction plan is similarly structured to that of West Bloomfield’s, where they will implement a combination of face-to-face instruction and continued virtual learning settings. 

As for Hillel Day School, no final decisions have been made yet for the new school year. However, the planning process has begun by the work of three different committees that Hillel has formed internally, the Campus Reopening task force, the Academic Continuity and Excellence task force and the Financial Planning task force. 

“We are planning for several possibilities for the 20202021 academic year that will be consistent with local, state, and federal guidelines and regulations,” Hillel’s statement to parents read. “While life at Hillel might not return to exactly as it was before COVID-19, we are certain that our community will bring ingenuity, passion, and determination to answering questions of how to adapt to our new normal that preserves the neshama (soul) of Hillel Day School.” 

Frankel Jewish Academy is also currently developing their plans for the upcoming school year and hope to have more information by mid-June. 

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