2 COVID-19 cases reported
By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — The students and teachers of Dearborn Heights District No. 7 returned to school this week in a unique way, with some learning and teaching online and others in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the district Sept. 8, with one at Bedford Elementary School and another at Annapolis High School. Parents received letters from principals at both of the schools addressing the positive cases and that areas of the schools would be disinfected as precaution.
Each of the cases was categorized as a close contact of a positive case meaning those two classes will be staying home for the next 14 days.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention website says close contact means someone has been within six feet for more than 15 minutes of an individual who has shown symptoms within two days.
In a Sept. 8 video posted to Facebook, Supt. Jennifer Mast said there were questions from people on why information on the positive COVID-19 tests was not put out on social media.
“Anytime there is some sort of contact that has to do with COVID-related issues we will not be posting on social media and there is a good reason for that,” Mast said. “So, you known COVID is a health-related issue, health issues are protected — there is a right to protection of that information and there is a right to confidentiality and we are going to honor that.
“Now, we are making everyone aware that needs to be aware. Communications are being sent out, sometimes by email and sometimes in a snail mail format, but parents and staff will be made aware when they need to be made aware. There are very clear guidelines about who needs to be notified, who’s in contact and how we do that so, we are doing exactly what we need to do.”
D7 choose to start the school year with both online and in-person instruction through at least the first card marking at the elementary and middle school levels through Oct. 30 and at the high school level by semester through Jan. 22.
All buildings in the district are open for instruction with 40 percent of students receiving face-to-face instruction, and the other 60 percent online.
Temperature checks are being completed each day outside schools throughout the district.
Physical classes are limited to 18 to allow for social distancing, clear partitions were placed on all desks, students and staff are wearing masks indoors, social distancing signs were placed around buildings, and hand sanitizer stations were installed.
Students are given mask breaks throughout the day which are going to be scheduled and done more regularly as the school year continues.
For elementary students, breaks are provided when they go outside and are spread out, but masks are not taken off when they are on playground equipment.
Middle and high schoolers have mask breaks that are walks around the block or when students are spread out and still interacting with each other while getting fresh air.
In elementary schools, students are eating lunch and are also having their specials, such as art and music classes, inside their classrooms to limit movement. At the middle and high schools, students have a blocked schedule so they switch classes three times instead of six times and are eating lunch in the cafeteria.
Clear partitions were placed on the tables which reduces seating from eight to a table to three or four. Also, lunch options at middle and high schools are now grab-and-go instead of picking and choosing from a line.
For the first month, Mast said there would be limited meal options as the food service program operates under the COVID-19 standards. On full days, the snack line is open but there will be no exchange of money so students will have to put money in their lunch accounts.
Mast added that the district is working to improve and find better hot lunch options for students.
For online students, pickup for multiple meals is available at O.W. Best Middle School, 22201 Powers Ave. twice a week.
Mast said the district is disinfecting and cleaning throughout the day, with five more custodians added to clean during the day.
As for virtual learning, the first week was spent setting up students online and Zoom meetings.
Students had to be virtually added to platforms; parents had to be walked through the process of getting into those programs and using the applications.
Detailed schedules with exact classes and times and more structure began the second week.
Under the online plan, instructional videos and lessons will be provided daily; virtual meetings will be scheduled daily; staff will hold office hours for communication, planning and progress monitoring; student attendance will be based on participation in virtual meetings, watching video lessons, completing or submitting assessments, and community with staff.
All teachers have office hours for parents and students to contact them if needed,
During a Sept. 2 board meeting Mast provided an update on the reopening.
“We started with face-to-face and virtual instruction — school starts just like school always starts every year — there’s lots of procedures that happen in the few first days that are not necessarily instructional in terms of books,” she said. “The face-to-face start went very smoothly, almost so smoothly that we were surprised by it, but everything went really well.
“The students responded very well to all of the things that we had in place. Everyone did well with wearing the masks, students did a great job with social distancing and things like that, that were new in school that they weren’t used to. Everybody was very impressed with how easily students adapted to what was new.”
During an Aug. 5 board meeting, Mast provided numbers from a survey with 45 percent of the community wanting face-to-face instruction and 55 wanting online instruction.
A survey was also sent to teachers, with 100 responding, and of those, 73 percent want to teach in-person and 27 percent in favor of online teaching.
The district is using SeeSaw as the main communication platform for elementary schools, Google Classroom for middle school, and Google Classroom and Edgenuity in the high school.
The district provided Chrome Books for families, and anyone who still needs one can contact the building principal to obtain one. They also have been able to provide more than one Chrome Book per family for those who need it.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])