By ZEINAB NAJM
All K-12 school buildings, including public, private and boarding will close starting March 16 through April 5, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced during a March 12 press conference.
Just two days prior, she declared a state of emergency due to the spread of the coronavirus — also known as COVID-19.
As of March 12 there are 12 confirmed cases in Michigan were announced in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, St. Clair, Ingham, Kent and Montcalm counties.
The virus section of the state’s website said there are two confirmed cases, 135 tests that were negative and 26 pending testing results early March 13.
“This is a necessary step to protect our kids, our families, and our overall public health,” Whitmer said. “I am working with partners across state government to ensure educators, parents and students have the support they need during this time, and to ensure our children who rely on school for meals have access to food.
“I know this will be a tough time, but we’re doing this to keep the most people we can safe. I urge everyone to make smart choices during this time and to do everything they can to protect themselves and their families.”
Whitmer also signed an executive order to cancel all events and all assemblages in shared spaces over 250 people through 5 p.m. April 5.
Dearborn Public Schools said its spring break still will take place from April 6 to 10 and students will return to school April 13.
Students were able to report March 13 at the normal start time to pick up their belongings and school supplies while staff were instructed to report in order to assistant students.
Staff members attended only the morning half of the day and went home at the half day release time.
The DPS central office team is working on short- and long-term guidance to develop remote learning sources, the district said in a release.
DPS will hold high school parent-teacher conference remotely by phone and both middle school and elementary school parent-teacher conferences will be determined at a later date.
The district’s Kindergarten Round-Ups, concerts, performances, science fairs, math or literacy nights and field trips were suspended immediately.
Extracurricular activities involving only district students will continue to meet but scheduled competitions or performances are suspended.
All building permits effective March 16 are cancelled, staff meetings or professional learning will be held at the building level only, cross building professional development will be conducted remotely, district committee meetings will be held using Google Hangout and extended day, tutoring, and ACCESS programs operated by the district will continue.
The school district canceled a career preparedness presentation with motivational speaker Brooks Harper which was set for March 12 at Edsel Ford High School. No reschedule date was announced.
DPS closed Whitmore-Bolles Elementary School temporarily for March 12 and 13 after a staff member came in contact with someone who has the coronavirus.
The staff member — who has not been identified — was tested to see if they contracted the virus. Results were not released as of press time.
On March 12 and 13, the district deep cleaned the school using its own staff and an outside company familiar with dealing with germs.
DPS Supt. Glenn Maleyko said the school closing was “out of an overabundance of caution” as the district awaited the test results. The staff member worked only at Whitmore-Bolles, according to a district press release.
The school closing was announced on the advice of public health officials, Maleyko said during a press conference March 11 at the DPS Administrative Services Center.
“The impact of the COVID-19 virus is a very dynamic and fluid situation,” Maleyko said. “How we address this today may not be the same practice or protocol for future cases.”
“We come here today not to alarm, panic or create stress, but to demonstrate our team’s readiness to address this concern and be prepared. We come here today as a team because the task of planning and preparing is not the decision of one person, but requires the expertise and skills of all of us,”
The Crestwood School District and Dearborn Heights District No. 7 closed March 13, with D7 stating there was no access to students or staff that day, but that an announcement will be made in regards to picking up materials March 16.
Schools will remain closed through spring break and resume on April 13. Students and staff were able to enter the district’s buildings March 13 to collect personal belongings.
“I met with the Wayne County superintendents today to discuss COVID-19,” Supt. Jennifer Mast said March 11. “I will be meeting with my administration team tomorrow morning and sending out a communication. Our schools continue to be on the intensive disinfecting schedule. Additional precautions will be decided and shared tomorrow.
“I ask you to trust that we will continue to make decisions that are best for our students and in agreement with the recommendations of the experts. Thank you for your understanding.”
A strategic planning meeting set for March 12 was postponed, and all school activities that are non-essential events and gatherings of more than 100 people in a shared space will be canceled though spring break, as recommended by Whitmer.
Crestwood Schools said it would use March 13 to assess its readiness and preparation in response to Whitmer’s school closure announcement.
More details from the district were scheduled to be released March 13 with teachers preparing to contact to students and families March 16 and 17 with a united plan for continued instruction. There was no announcement from Supt. Youssef Mosallam on whether school would resume on April 6 or on April 13 following spring break.
Crestwood canceled its eighth-grade parent meeting that was scheduled for March 13th at 9:15 for scheduling and FIRST Robotics also canceled events due to its partnerships with General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and General Electric.
Winter sports tournaments were suspended by order of the Michigan High School Athletic Association, and spring sports competitions were suspended but practices are allowed.
The University of Michigan-Dearborn canceled classes March 12 to 14 and announced classes will resume remotely on March 16 while the campus remains open and staff reporting to work as normal.
Henry Ford College said no classes will be held from March 16 to 22 and that during the delay HFV will work with faculty and staff to convert many classes to an online format and provide additional support for students who will be taking online classes.
The Dearborn Heights City Council canceled its meeting scheduled for March 12 and a Planning Commission meeting was moved from March 12 to March 18 as a result of the virus.
Mayor Daniel Paletko issued a statement March 12 regarding the coronavirus which said he was included in a phone conference March 11 organized by the White House that included representation from the Center for Disease Control, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Department of Education, Housing and Urban Development and Small Business Administration.
“The current risk of getting COVID-19 is low among the general public in Dearborn Heights, but in the interest of public safety, we have decided to close the Berwyn Senior Citizen Center and the Eton Senior Recreation Center until further notice,” Paletko said. “Our emergency management team is in close contact with the governor’s office and other state and federal agencies to monitor the situation hour by hour.
“Our priority and those at most risk are the elderly and those with underlying health care problems such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease. This was highlighted by the Admiral in Charge of HHS who indicated that 50 percent of those who have died from the disease were over 65 years of age. Everybody has a role to play as we battle this pandemic. Let’s be a caring community and act in a responsible manner towards one another.”
Dearborn Heights closed the Eton Senior Recreation Center and the Berwyn Senior Citizen Center March 13 until further notice due to the coronavirus.
Also, a Dearborn Heights City Hall Facebook post said closures will be re-evaluated as conditions warrant. All senior bus trips have also been canceled and the Meals on Wheels deliveries will operate as normal.
The Caroline Kennedy Library and John F. Kennedy, Jr. Library was closed through March 22 and programs at the Richard A. Young Center were canceled, but the center remained open.
Also, the 20th District Court suspended and postponed all walk-in explanation hearings for 60 days as of March 12.
Dearborn Public Library cancelled its March youth programs, but the library remains open to the public with normal hours of operation.
The Big Read events and activities scheduled for March have been canceled and the senior services office in the east wing of the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center is closed indefinitely.
Meals on Wheels in Dearborn will also continue as usual, along with SMART bus services for those who need to book and conduct rides for essential medical services.
Information on the COVID-19 virus can be found at www.michigan.gov/coronavirus or www.wayne-health.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])