ELPS Expects to Share Curricular Plan Soon, as Free Meals Start Again

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Superintendent Dori Leyko (shown here at the April 13 board meeting) has defended the no-grade policy as important to equity.

East Lansing Public Schools Superintendent Dori Leyko reported at the district’s school board meeting last night that ELPS now has developed a continuity-of-learning plan and expects to submit it to the Ingham Intermediate School District (ISD) later today or tomorrow.

ELPS families should expect to receive the continuity-of-learning plan later this week, after it has been approved by the Ingham ISD – an approval required by the state.

Last night’s meeting was the school board’s second virtual meeting since Governor Whitmer shuttered Michigan’s schools. Most of the hour-long meeting was spent discussing what Whitmer’s latest executive orders mean for the remainder of the school year in East Lansing.

During the discussion, Leyko said that ELPS has developed a district-wide plan and also specific plans for each school building, accommodating for differences among elementary, middle, and high school students.

She said that some School Board members and parents had been asked to provide feedback on the plan, but declined to answer questions about who they were and how they were chosen.

ELPS is distributing devices this week to families who need them, but Leyko made clear that families should not feel obliged to use online methods if that does not work best for them.

She emphasized that this plan is best understood as a “distance learning plan” or “continuous learning plan” and not an “online learning plan.” Online learning will represent only one of several options available to ELPS families.

Learning will also occur asynchronously (not live) to permit flexibility. Families can download lectures, information, and assignments to complete at their own pace. Feedback will be provided in multiple ways.

Monday, April 20, will begin “Week 1,” an orientation week in which families, students, and teachers will become familiar with the new platforms and reestablish connections with each other. Students will complete some work to better understand curricular methods and teachers’ expectations.

Students will continue to engage with review and supplemental material throughout Week 2 and will transition to learning new material during Week 3.

ELPS has required teachers to collaborate with their colleagues who teach at the same grade level to ensure students have similar experiences and learning outcomes across schools and classrooms.

Leyko described the plan as student- and family-focused, “based on our beliefs around equity in many ways, not just about device-access.”

The plan, she said, will accommodate students with special needs, including students with disabilities and English-learner students.

Board members probed Leyko with questions about how the plan had been developed and what it included, admitting that their questions were aimed at ensuring that parents would be aware of all the work that went into developing the plan.

In response to some of the questions, Leyko said ELPS had been monitoring what other states that ended in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year were doing. She indicated that her team had started thinking about the transition before the closures were mandated.

When Whitmer suspended in-person instruction through the end of the school year, the Michigan Association for Intermediate School Administration (MAISA) provided templates for plan development. Plans must follow the 17 pages of state guidelines that accompanied the executive order.

According to Leyko, ELPS established “non-negotiables” for its own plan, but it is unclear what these “non-negotiables” have been.

ELPS Board President Erin Graham ran last night’s meeting.

School Board President Erin Graham said repeatedly during the public comment period that Leyko and the Board would not be answering questions put to them during the meeting, and Leyko has not responded to follow-up questions from ELi about the “non-negotiables” or who is providing feedback on the plan.

Leyko did say during the meeting that, after the plan was developed, school principals were asked for feedback, followed by faculty members. Leyko and the school board members noted that ELPS honored the previously-scheduled Spring Break last week, so all teachers who attended meetings and provided feedback did so voluntarily on their personal time.

ELPS also consulted union leaders regarding the roll out of the plan.

Various board members and Leyko praised their draft continuity-of-learning plan.

ELPS Board Vice President Terah Chambers, speaking at last night’s meeting.

Board Vice President Terah Chambers said that as a parent she is always anxious for more information, but clarified that “the worst thing we can do is add to anxiety by implementing plan that isn’t fully realized.” She expressed thanks that ELPS was taking a “very deliberate” and “thoughtful” approach toward planning.

Leyko stated that there can be no perfect plan, but said that ELPS tried hard to meet the needs of kids, teachers, and families.

While the School Board has largely suspended its committee work, member Chris Martin expressed interest in resuming this work using online meetings. Other members agreed this is a good idea.

The superintendent also announced last night that meal distribution is resuming this week, beginning on Thursday (April 16), following a pause last week.

ELPS has now been able to contract for prepackaged meals, limiting the number of workers and preparation time needed, and thereby limiting the potential contact between people. Pickups will run from noon until 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at ELHS. Families will continue to receive breakfast and lunch for children who had been receiving free meals through the school district.

ELPS will continue to deliver to approximately 50 to 60 families who cannot make it to ELHS for the pickup. Teachers and staff have been volunteering to drop meals for 3 to 4 families each.

Many spring events have been cancelled, including prom, although Leyko said it is possible that will be rescheduled for a later date.

ELPS is holding off on making any decisions on commencement.

Update: Superintendent Leyko got back to us this afternoon on the question of who has been consulted on the plan. She writes, “All board members have been given an opportunity to review and offer feedback on the district’s Continuity of Learning Plan. A small number of parents are being asked to provide feedback – from our district equity teams, District Parent Council, and a couple who either serve on committees or work with populations within our district from which we’d like specific feedback (special education, English learners), also one or two who have previously reached out and offered to help in any way. They represent all levels of our students – elementary, middle and high. Each level has its own detailed plan that is much more specific than the template application required for the district’s plan.”

She also confirmed, “The Continuity of Learning plan will be available publicly once it’s approved by the ISD. It should be on our website no later than Friday.”

Access ELi’s schools reporting here, and see all of our COVID-19 reporting here.

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