Michigan schools are trying to get back to business after a month in lockdown. The coronavirus pandemic has forced teachers and administrators to create a new strategy for guiding more than 1 million students through the end of the school year. They’re building distance learning plans that will heavily rely on technology…and on trust.
There's going to be some expectations where, you know, kids need that attention or that re-teaching at home or that adult sitting next to them because of their developmental needs and attention span. We’ve been really cognizant of understanding the pressure that's going to put on our families. So, we want to figure out what can we do to help individual families meet the need and also balance their lives while keeping this education moving forward.
Are you worried that there might be a small portion of kids and families who say, you know…I'm kind of enjoying this early vacation. I'm checking out and I'm not going to do this because you really can't make me do it?
Absolutely. That's a main concern of ours, as well as our board of education. We still have compulsory education; we're just in a different mindset here because of the situation that we're in and we want to move every child forward with their learning.
In order to keep an eye on that, we're going to be surveying our teachers to get feedback on who is participating and who isn't participating and then coming up with a way to follow up with those families. (It’s) not to make them feel guilty if they're not participating, but to do our best to ensure that we're working with them to understand their situation. If they can't give us every day, we'll take what we can get. We understand parents are working from home, having to manage kids…some parents aren't working from home and are having to manage their kids; they’re still working in their offices or at their places of work. Every situation is different, and we want to really individualize that and keep all our kids engaged.
Then we're planning on doing individualized follow up with phone calls or staff reaching out just to do check-ins. Hey, we haven't noticed your student has been logging in or we haven't noticed your student participating. Is there something we can help you with? And again, that's not to make people feel guilty about their situation. It's to try to seek to understand and remove barriers so we can have as many kids participating as possible.
Before the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Michigan, the Okemos Public Schools were supposed to end the school year on June 10, with seniors ending the year a bit earlier. Is it still the case that school will end the second week in June? And what's going to happen with the senior class?
A great question. We're following our normal school calendar. So, the 13 days when we were closed, per se, were seen as forgiven. Like snow days; last year we had nine snow days. We’re counting (the coronavirus closure) as 13 closure days, and those are forgiven days that don't need to be made up. We’re counting school days now leading up to the end of the year to get to our 180 days, and instruction for kids will start on Monday.
As for seniors, we recognize that this has had a significant impact on all our kids. The loss of face to face relationships and the routines. Our seniors have lost out on some of the hallmark events of their high school and K-12 career in terms of prom, graduation, awards nights.
So our high school principal, Christine Sermak and our high school faculty is very cognizant too of the loss of control the seniors have had in this situation. We could move ahead and just plan activities and say, hey, here's how administration thought that we best meet those needs, because we want to try to still provide them but in a different way, obviously. But Mrs. Sermak put a pause on that, I think very wisely and said, you know, we want the students’ voice in this. So she's reaching out to come up with a way to get some student voice and deciding what some of these things look like.
They can craft it, they can put their energy and their effort and their spirit into it, and they'll take it to a place we could never have imagined. It’ll be even more meaningful for them. So that said…to be continued, but with a really thoughtful process here in Okemos that we know will validate the feelings of our seniors and help them have that capstone experience that they need as they graduate from the Okemos Public Schools.