By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education unanimously voted Aug. 10 to start the upcoming school year online for students from preschool through high school, until at least Oct. 1.
Under the online learning plan, face-to-face learning labs will be available for social-emotional and academic assistance as additional support for those who need it. Details on the scheduling, staffing, and availability of Learning Labs will be determined.
“I think these are all difficult decisions and I appreciate the support of the board,” Supt. Glenn Maleyko said. “I do stand by everything we’ve done in our P-12 district and I know the board stands behind me and my team.
“It’s so important to ensure that we are helping each other with these regulations. This is not political, this is just doing what is right for our students. So, we will social distance, we will wear the masks and do all the things that we need to do. I think we’re doing what’s right.
“We know that in-person instruction is best for our students — we know that, no one is saying that it isn’t, I’m going to say it right now, but the fact is we are looking at the health and safety of the community. So, we’re balancing this as a health crisis first and then instruction.”
Conditions will be re-evaluated in September to see if it is possible for some or all students to begin returning to their classrooms due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Depending on several factors — including local and state health conditions throughout August and September, Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Wayne County Health Department recommendations, and the current orders from the state of Michigan — the district would re-evaluate the plan to determine the feasibility of changing the mode of instruction — full in-person, online, or a blended model that combines both, a DPS press release said.
Students will be expected to attend the online classes with their teacher every school day, attendance will be counted and work will be graded on a more traditional scale. Each school will contact students with the teacher’s assignments and information before classes begin Aug. 31.
The in-school learning labs for students will be provided in small groups to students for academic and social-emotional issues. Each of the district’s 36 schools will create its own schedule for learning labs.
Teachers will recommend students they feel will benefit from the learning lab, but parents and students also will be able to request the additional help.
Teachers and students will use Schoology and Zoom for lessons. Schoology will provide a central hub for students to connect to all their teachers and find and submit all their lessons and assignments, a district press release said. The secure platform also gives teachers more control over their virtual classroom, including how students interact during live lessons.
The board made its decision during the Aug. 10 Henry Ford College virtual meeting to meet the state’s Aug. 17 deadline.
As required by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Return to School Roadmap unveiled June 30, the board’s approved plan will be sent to Wayne County RESA and then to the Michigan Department of Education. Whitmer’s roadmap provided a framework for the work done by the Dearborn Reopening Committee, which is composed of 80 staff, students and parents.
The committee held six virtual meetings and held several additional sub-committee meetings working to develop a comprehensive recommendation on how best to start the upcoming school year.
Dearborn Federation of Teachers President Jane Mazza, Association of Dearborn Schools Administrators President David Higgins and Executive Director of Staff and Student Services Maysam Alie-Bazzi co-chaired the committee.
Reopening plans can still change depending the local COVID-19 pandemic or because of new executive orders issued by Whitmer.
Under phases 1, 2, or 3, the district would have to implement full online instruction as ordered by Whitmer. If the state is in phases 4, 5 or 6, the district is allowed to implement in-person instruction but would still need to follow government requirements and recommendations.
On Aug. 6, the board spent four hours in a special study session discussing each of the three possible options for reopening schools this year.
The two other options were explored by the district, but the committee recommended starting the school year online.
Those options were to begin the school year blended. One option called for partial online and partial in-person for elementary students and 100 percent online for secondary students with learning labs available for social-emotional and academic assistance available to middle and high school students. The other option called for partial online and partial in-person for elementary and secondary students, but with possible issues for traditional transportation services due to the state requirements for schools to hold in-person instruction during Phase 4 of its plan.
The district is offering families and students a separate option which it created called the Virtual Learning Program. Students within the district can attend school online only if they do not want to return to in-building learning this year for at least this upcoming semester.
Students who sign up for the program will still be taught by Dearborn Public School staff using the district’s curriculum. If a student wishes to return to in-building learning at the semester break, the district will find a school that is not at enrollment capacity.
This might not be the student’s home school. If the student is not placed at their home school, they will return to their home building at the beginning of the next school year.
Virtual learning students would still be eligible to participate in other district programs including sports and extracurricular activities, if the child meets all other requirements.
Middle and high school students will be expected to spend approximately five to eight hours a week on each class for a total of 30 or more hours per week. Elementary students will be expected to work 20 to 30 hours a week on school work.
Parents can read more information on the program or register their child at vlp.dearbornschools.org. The district is asking families to commit to the program for at least a semester, preferably the entire year.
To watch the board’s meetings go to www.youtube.com/user/dpscommdept.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])