FCS prepares for expanded in-person learning on March 8

FLUSHING — Starting next Monday, most Flushing Community Schools students will be receiving more face-to-face classroom time and less virtual instruction.

For the first time this school year, FCS has decided to increase in-person learning from two days a week to four days a week for grades K-12. In-person learners will attend class on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesdays being reserved for online small group instruction.

Meanwhile, elementary students who have opted for 100 percent online learning will resume with their same schedule. Middle school and high school students who are in the 100 percent online learning cohort will follow their schedule virtually four days a week beginning March 8.

In recent weeks, many parents have called for FCS to adjust its hybrid plan and allow for more in-person instruction. Some also started an online petition drive to urge the district to return to a fulltime classroom schedule with a virtual option.

As the district listened to opinions and perspectives brought by parents, FCS Superintendent Matt Shanafelt said the final decision to expand in-person learning was strictly based on a downward trend in COVID-19 cases and support from local health officials.

“While the health, safety and education of our children is easily the most passionate topic imaginable for any of us…this learning decision follows the most recent guidance and data and is made with an abundance of consideration given to the academic needs and physical, mental and social-emotional health of our students,” Shanafelt said. “We do not make this decision lightly, and make it solely following the most recent data and guidance available to us and with the support of the Genesee County Health Department.”

Genesee County’s current COVID- 19 positivity rate is hovering around 4 percent. As defined by the MI Safe Start plan, the county has shifted to a “A” risk level in terms of positivity rates and a “C” risk level in the average number of cases. Shanafelt said that these metrics are tentatively allowing for more in-person learning and a transition away from reduced density classes and hybrid learning.

With more students attending classes, Shanafelt said FCS will continue using a podding system and other strategies to ensure the greatest amount of social distancing.

“If this new learning model is to remain successful, it is important that mitigation strategies, such as mask wearing, social distancing, proper hygiene and strict cleaning protocols continue to be followed in our buildings,” he said. “Although all of our buildings currently have less students in them due to the high percentage of 100 percent online learners and—in many cases, lower class sizes—six-feet or more of social distancing will not be easily achieved.”

Shanafelt said parents must also continue to be vigilant and keep their kids home if they or another family member is symptomatic or awaiting test results. Students should also be kept home if they’ve been exposed to someone who is COVID-positive.

More details on the district’s new learning plan can be found at flushingschools.org.