FCS to start fall semester online on Sept. 8

FLUSHING — Flushing Community Schools will be delaying in-person classes and rolling out the new school year with online courses this fall.

Last Tuesday, the Flushing Board of Education unanimously approved a proposal to start the 2020/2021 school year on Sept. 8 and to hold all classes online for the first month of the fall semester. The board also moved to delay in-person instruction until at least Oct. 5.

Although the district was originally planning to begin with a hybrid format for classes on Aug. 31, FCS Superintendent Matt Shanafelt said that in-person classes need to be delayed as long as the risk of COVID-19 exposure remains high for students and staff.

“I have been a staunch supporter and advocate for students returning to in-school learning as much as possible, as long as it is safe for all of our students and staff members to do so,” he said. “(But) it is clear that a return to any in-school learning at this time will exponentially increase the possibility of COVID-19 spread amongst our students, families, staff members and those in our community.”

Shanafelt said that continuation of the 100 percent remote learning model and a possible return to in-person instruction will be closely evaluated in advance of Oct. 5. In the meantime, he said that the district’s online learning platform will be a more robust learning experience for students than what was offered in the spring.

“Students will be engaged every day, using a consistent schedule, with the teaching and learning being provided in a synchronous and asynchronous manner,” Shanafelt said. “It is our intention that every student will regularly spend time interacting with their classmates and teacher online in an abbreviated live format, as well as completing assignments offline.”

When conditions allow for in-person instruction to return in the fall, Shanafelt said that FCS will pursue a hybrid model that would have students in class two days a week and at home the other three days. Students who show symptoms of the virus would be quarantined for 10 days or until they have a negative COVID-19 test.

If a student tests positive for the virus, his/her classroom would be closed for five days and the teacher and any students in that classroom would be quarantined outside of school for 14 days, per protocol from the state’s Back to School Roadmap and guidance from the Genesee County Health Department.

Shanafelt said that proceeding with in-school education will be difficult, with students and teachers potentially switching from in-person to online learning on a regular basis based on either positive tests or symptoms of any kind. He said that a gradual transition to in-person education will be necessary and based largely on parameters given by the Genesee County Health Department.

“This has truly been the most difficult situation that any of us in education have ever encountered,” Shanafelt said. “We simply want to get it right.”

More information and updates on Flushing Community Schools’ Return to School Plan is available at flushingschools.org.