DEARBORN — The Dearborn Board of Education late Monday night authorized administrators to start a blended learning program for elementary students once community COVID-19 conditions improved, but noted that may take several weeks.
The district can start bringing kindergarten through elementary students back two weeks after the Wayne County Health Department safety rating for the district improves to at least a D and the seven-day average positivity rate for Wayne County outside of Detroit is below 5 percent for at least two weeks. The county’s safe school matrix is based on the infection rate for that community (number of cases per 100,000 people), if the infection rate is increasing or decreasing, and the county’s positivity rate (number of COVID tests that come back positive).
Currently DPS, along with most Wayne County schools, has an E rating on the county’s matrix. The district will work with Wayne County to try to get the relevant reports posted publicly and linked from the district’s web site. DPS already has charts from other sources showing the daily and average positivity rates.
Two weeks after community conditions are met, the district will restart with blended learning where half of kindergarten to second grade students will come in for four hours on Monday and Thursday and the other half of students on Tuesday and Friday. Wednesday will be used for live online learning for all students.
The district was authorized to restart as early as Nov. 16, but trustees doubted community conditions would improve quickly enough to allow that to happen. The seven day positivity rate continues to be more than 5 percent.
Two weeks after kindergarten through second grade students return, grades three through five would also be allowed to restart on the same blended schedule. Preschool programs would follow after the rest of elementary restarted.
Classes would move back to online only if conditions decline in the district or if problems arise at a particular school and the health department recommends closing that building for a while.
Under the approved plan, middle and high school students would not return to classes face to face until at least the second semester starting in mid January. Then, they would also probably restart with a similar blended schedule and a shorter school day. Dearborn Schools would be able to restart learning labs for students once the average positivity rate falls below 5 percent again.
For elementary students, schools would have siblings attend on the same day, dividing the school roughly by last name. Breakfast would be offered in the classroom, but students who wanted lunch would take a boxed meal home. Plans are still being worked out for how free meal distributions will continue for other students.
Students and staff will be required to wear masks while they are in the buildings.
The board’s meeting, which lasted more than six hours, also addressed how desks and other touch points will be sanitized every four hours or when students change classes, and looked at how many people with COVID have been on school grounds. The presentation to the board also touched on numerous other safety details like how schools will develop entry and exit procedures to help students social distance and social distancing in the classrooms and hallways.
School officials also noted that parents who are uncomfortable with the plan have until Oct. 30, to sign up to switch their children to the Virtual Learning Program. For information on the Virtual Learning Program, go to https://vlp.dearbornschools.org. Individual questions can be addressed by calling 313-827-3024. Any parent with a child already in the Virtual Learning Program does not need to re-enroll their student.
Approximately 2,500 Dearborn students are now signed up for the program which will teach children online for the entire year. DPS has more than 20,000 students.
DPS opted to start by returning elementary students to face-to-face learning because those children have the most difficult time learning online and because those students are easier to keep socially distanced. The young students will stay in their classrooms during their shortened school day.
“We are grateful for this concrete plan to start bringing students back to our schools because we know most students learn best in-person,” Supt. Glenn Maleyko said. “We hope with this gradual approach to show our community schools can resume relatively safely, and we ask the community to do its part to reduce the spread of the virus by wearing masks, social distancing, regular hand washing, and taking other safety precautions.”