DAVISON — In a letter to parents and students Tuesday morning, Davison Community School Superintendent Kevin Brown said the district will delay the start of classes until Sept. 8.
The move, according to the letter, comes after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended her order declaring a state of emergency through Sept. 4 and signed executive order 2020- 166, last Friday.
This executive order requires people with COVID-19 symptoms such as a fever, sore throat, persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea or lack of taste or smell to self-quarantine for 14 days or until they get a COVID-19 negative test. The executive order not only requires people with COVID-like symptoms to self-quarantine but also requires anyone who has been within six feet of someone with COVID-like symptoms for 15 minutes or longer to self-quarantine as well.
Brown said in the letter the order further complicates opening school and adds to the many challenges school officials are already facing.
“We have had more than 1,100 students (approximately 20 percent of our student population) register for online learning. We have reassigned 21 of our K-6 teachers to teach online and we are in the process of hiring additional staff in an effort to reduce class sizes and maintain as much social distancing within our buildings for our face-to-face students as possible,” said Brown in his statement. “The District has also used its Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) funds to purchase 2,500 additional chromebooks in order to have a device available for every student and move to a one-to-one environment. We will not have those new devices available until late September or early October so our Technology Department staff is working diligently to prepare to redistribute our existing devices to our secondary students, all of whom will be taking online classes, our 100 percent online students and still provide devices for our elementary classrooms.
“This has proven to be a monumental task as many of these devices are in need of software upgrades and having them ready by Aug. 17 may not be feasible.”
Brown also said in the letter the district has had several support staff (bus drivers, monitors, paraprofessionals, etc.) resign or retire recently and while the district is in the process of filling those vacant positions, he said it was difficult to say if the district would have the staff necessary to start to the school year on Aug. 17.
In addition, he said building administrators continue to work on scheduling students and teacher assignments.
“This is an enormous task, especially at our secondary buildings. At Davison High School, for example, where we usually spend about two months scheduling, the administrators have to reschedule approximately 1,700 students from their previous six hour in person schedule to a new four-hour face to face and two hours on line schedule,” said Brown.
“Despite our best efforts and intentions to welcome students and staff back to school on Aug. 17, I don’t see how we can do that right now,” said Brown, in the letter to parents and students. “I firmly believe it is vitally important that we get our students back to school for face-to-face instruction and, based on all of our survey results, we know the majority (76 percent district wide) of our parents feel the same way. However, this new executive order compounded with the challenges described above causes concern that we may not be ready to open successfully.”
For these reasons, Brown said the district has made the decision to push back the start of the 2020/21 school year until after Labor Day. The plan is currently to start on Sept. 8, for face-to-face and/or online learning.
Brown said parents should watch for more information to come soon from their student’s school building regarding any changes this might cause for building tours that were scheduled for this week. Parents are also asked to complete their student’s online registration by noon Aug. 14, so the district can conclude the scheduling process. — G.G.