Burton area school districts looking at options for holding fall classes

BURTON — If there’s one thing everyone in education can agree on at this moment is no one knows for sure how the fall is going to look when students resume classes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With the 2019 school year cancelled early, the idea of safely returning to school in the fall has left a lot of unanswered questions. School district officials across the county are attempting to grapple with these matters with August only two months away.

In Burton area school districts, officials are waiting to see what the Center for Disease Control and the State of Michigan have to say about school in the fall, while preparing for three possible scenarios.

“There are lots of unknowns and there continue to be a lot of unknowns,” said Bentley Superintendent Kristy Spann. “The governor continues to make decisions on a week-by-week basis. Based on what we know right now, we’re trying to plan for three different educational models I the fall.”

The options are a return to school all day, a hybrid model of students in class some days while working remotely on others and a model where students use remote learning only.

Bendle School Superintendent John Krolewski said nobody really knows what the fall will look like, but he said his school district is also prepared for different scenarios depending on the state’s direction.

“We could return to a fairly normal situation,” he said. “But we’re prepared for online learning or another at home option. There are three options out there and we’ll prepare for the best system we can deliver with the resources we have.”

Krolewski said the Bendle Board of Education is waiting to see what the governor’s advisory council will call for.

“Everything could change overnight,” he said.

Kearsley Superintendent Kevin Walworth said in his video blog available on the district’s website that his district is also waiting to see what happens at the state.

“We wish we knew right now exactly what next year will look like, but until the state and federal guidelines are put out and they dictate to us how we can open our school year, we are preparing for multiple ways for our school year to open in the fall,” he said. “On Aug. 24 we are starting our school year.”

Walworth said if students return to classes, Kearsley schools will have new health and safety procedures in place as well as new cleaning procedures to keep the buildings safe for all students.

Every Kearsley student will get a Chromebook, so they are prepared for classroom or a completely virtual return to school.

“It’s a rigorous plan,” he said in the video blog. “We want to help you help us teach your kids.”

Spann said Bentley schools are collecting information from parents and staff regarding what they think next school year should look like.

Bentley is collecting data through surveys accessible on the district’s website. It asks questions like what parents are likely to prefer coming into the fall and the same with the staff.

“We’ll look at all those factors, stakeholder input, CDC input, government input and what’s going on around the county,” she said. “We’re all trying to work together to service children well. There’s a lot of conversation statewide and between the Genesee County superintendents, the conversations we’re having.”

She said Bentley will have things in place like the disinfection, cleaning of buildings and buses, how many students in a room. She said the possibility of having one class divided between two classrooms, with one room taught directly by a teacher and the other taught through a video feed of that teacher with help from a para-professional, has even been discussed.

“It gets complicated fast,” said Spann. “You talk about lunches? We don’t know. Special events? We don’t know. These are all questions we are grappling with. At some point we’ll make a decision, but now we’re collaborating to make decisions.”

Atherton Superintendent John Ploof could not be reached for comment, but his district’s website does offer a survey online to help district officials with how best to move ahead with the 2020-21 school year. The survey can be found at www.athertonschools.org.