School COVID
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Most districts will be utilizing a hybrid model as part of their push to meet Whitmer’s goal of a March 1 return.

Public school districts in Oakland County are making plans for their return to in-person learning, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan health department have strongly encouraged districts to “provide as much face-to-face learning as possible” by March 1.

The governor’s encouragement came after plans were announced to move Michigan into “Phase 2” of its vaccine administration, which makes pre-kindergarten through high school teachers, support staff and child-care workers who usually have direct contact with children eligible for inoculation.

Farmington, Berkley, West Bloomfield, Bloomfield Hills and Oak Park are among the public school districts preparing various in-person learning plans for students, but their initiatives vary. Several offer some combination of a “hybrid” instruction model that has students splitting their time between home and school.

Farmington Public Schools: A hybrid learning model assigns students certain days to attend in-person, with the remaining days devoted to online learning. Some elementary and special education students resumed in-person instruction on Jan. 11, while middle and high school students will be given the option to return to school on Jan. 25.

Elementary students are assigned to alternating morning and afternoon cohorts to divide their time between in-person and online, Monday through Thursday. Middle and high school students will attend in-person two days a week. Special education students will attend in-person learning two to four days a week, depending on their age group.

Students and their families have the choice of whether they want to use the hybrid model or remain entirely virtual.

Diane Bauman, director of school community relations for Farmington Public Schools, visited five elementary schools and one special education center when students returned on Monday, and said everything went smoothly.

“It was exciting to see students and staff back in the classrooms,” Bauman said. “It didn’t look like we missed a beat.

“It’s a different world now with masks and social distancing, but we have all the mitigation strategies in place that are needed to provide safety for our students and staff.”

Berkley School District: Elementary students and special education programming will have the option to return to the classroom beginning Feb. 1, middle school students have the option to return to the classroom beginning Feb. 8 and high school students have the option to return on Feb. 22. Berkley will accommodate students who choose to remain all-virtual with a live streaming model.

For the elementary students returning to the in-person format, Berkley will be using a half-day hybrid structure, dividing students into AM and PM in-person cohorts five days a week. Middle and high school students returning with the hybrid schedule will attend two days a week and spend three days online, with some students attending in-person on Monday and Tuesday and the others on Thursdays and Fridays.

Measures being taken for students returning to class include promoting social distancing and completing daily health screenings for all students and staff. Everyone is required to wear masks at all times except during meals.

West Bloomfield School District: Students in grades K-8 will return to a hybrid model on Jan. 19. The district started K-8 hybrid instruction last August and had to transition to remote-only instruction in early November. West Bloomfield High School, which had been remote all school year, will begin their hybrid model on Jan. 28.

The WBHS hybrid option will include an A/B cohort system. Cohort A will attend in-person instruction on Mondays and Thursdays, while Cohort B will attend in-person instruction on Tuesdays and Fridays. Any students requiring additional assistance will attend on Wednesdays when the rest of the school is participating in asynchronous instruction (where the teacher is not interacting with students in real time).

Bloomfield Hills Schools: The Bloomfield Hills Board of Education approved the recommendation to return to in-person learning in a hybrid model on Jan. 7.

Special education preschool programs and students in K-8 will return to in-person learning on Jan. 19, while Bloomfield Hills High School students will return on Feb. 1.

Similar to many of the other districts, students will follow a cohort system on an AM/PM basis every weekday besides Wednesday, when students will have synchronous (where the teacher is interacting with students in real time) and asynchronous distance learning.

Oak Park Schools: Superintendent Jamii J. Hitchcock sent an update to families on Tuesday, Jan. 12, asking all families to complete a survey to help them determine their reopening plans. The results of the survey will be incorporated into OPS’ formal recommendation for reopening plans, to be presented to the Oak Park School District Board of Education on Monday, Jan. 25.

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