Flushing Community Schools provides update on reopening plan

FLUSHING — Flushing Community Schools has released a progress report on its plan to reopen for the first day of school on Aug. 31.

In a recent letter to parents, FCS Superintendent Matt Shanafelt said that the district is working on a reopening plan based on guidance from the MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap, which allows for different instructional plans and responses to be implemented at different phases of COVID-19.

Altogether, there are six phases to the state’s reopening guidelines, with each coordinating to a different stage of COVID-19 conditions: Phase 1 (uncontrolled growth); Phase 2 (persistent spread); Phase 3 (flattening); Phase 4 (improvement); Phase 5 (containment); Phase 6 (post pandemic).

Under Phase 4 of the safe start plan, in-person instruction would be allowed with required safety protocols and the availability of online programs. Phase 5 would include in-person instruction with limited safety protocols, and Phase 6 would allow for normal learning to resume.

If school should start during Phases 1-3, however, then districts will have to resort to implementing a fully remote instructional model.

With Genesee County currently in Phase 4, Shanafelt said that the district has been able to develop a hybrid learning plan, which would allow for students to be in school two to three days and learn remotely from home for the rest of the week.

While some parents are supporting a five day in-person schedule for students to start the year, Shanafelt said that the hybrid plan will be safer for students and staff, while allowing the district to transition seamlessly to either a five day school week or a 100 percent online model as necessary.

The Phase 4 plan would also include smaller class sizes and fewer students on busses. Per state guidelines, facemasks would be mandatory for secondary students throughout the school day but only required for elementary students while on they are on busses or in hallways and other common areas.

Shanafelt said that a 100 percent online option is also being developed for families that are not comfortable with sending their students back into school buildings. With this option, students would be taught in a virtual setting by a Flushing Community Schools teacher.

Shanafelt said that families will have the option to officially opt into the 100 percent online option in a couple of weeks.

However, if the state reenters Phases 1-3 due to an uncontrolled surged in COVID-19 cases, Shanafelt said that all students will have to start the school year with virtual classes.

“If we are in Phases 1-3 on Aug. 31, all of our students will be learning online per the State of Michigan,” he said. “If this is necessary, it will undoubtedly be a much different experience for our students than last year, with our district having adequate time to prepare. It is our intention to have it more closely resemble the pace, learning, feedback and expectations of a regular school experience.”

Shanafelt said that the district has ordered tablets for every student in grades K-2 and Chromebooks for every student in grades 3-12. Chromebooks and tablets will be distributed to students as the school year gets underway.

As the district’s reopening plan continues to develop, parents are being advised to watch for weekly updates on the new Flushing Community Schools Facebook page and at flushingschools.org.