School Board Holds Short Meeting; Plans Continue for Return to In-Person Learning

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

East Lansing's MacDonald Middle School sits empty, but students may begin returning to in-person learning as soon as Jan. 4.

After several marathon meetings in a row, the East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education met for less than an hour on Monday evening, Feb. 8. The board discussed the return to in-person learning, building construction updates, and some unique recognitions.

Return to In-Person Learning

The board previously voted 6-1 to have elementary school children return to school on Feb. 22 and middle and high school students return on Mar. 1. This week’s board meeting included sharing of the information that ELPS students will not have class on Friday, Feb. 12. The day will instead be used for teachers to prepare for the return to in-person learning. There will also be no class on Monday, Feb. 15 because of Presidents’ Day.

According to Director of Technology Christian Palasty, teachers will not be required to use new technology as some students return to schools. Classrooms at the middle and high schools will each have a second monitor to permit teachers to use Zoom or Google Classrooms. The other monitor will be used for projecting. Curriculum Director Glenn Mitcham said that teachers will also have a professional development day on Feb. 24 dedicated to best practices for concurrent classrooms.

Superintendent Dori Leyko said that more announcements may come from the district, but most plans for the return will be disseminated at the building level. The district is working with its food services provider to accommodate in-person lunch and take-home breakfasts at the elementary level, take-home breakfast and lunch at the middle and high schools, and weekly distribution of meals for remote learners.

Parents who would like their children to take the bus but did not indicate that on the survey should contact their child’s principal.

According to a voluntary and anonymous survey created by Superintendent Dori Leyko and circulated among ELPS staff, approximately 90% of staff who responded have either received both vaccine doses or are awaiting an appointment for a second dose. Another two percent have upcoming appointments for their first doses. Leyko said she opened the survey yesterday and, so far, 235 individuals out of approximately 300 responded.

MDHHS approved ELPS’ participation in rapid antigen testing for staff, 147 of whom expressed interest in the survey. Participation is voluntary and allows for one test per week. ELPS is also pursuing antigen tests for students, but it has yet to receive word about this option from MDHHS.

ELPS instructors will also have to wear masks that meet MDHHS guidelines. The district purchased clear plastic masks to accommodate special transparent-mask needs, such as for students learning to read, English language learners, and hearing impaired students. Leyko said the district is consulting with its legal counsel at Thrun to make sure those masks are compliant.

Bond Update

The new Whitehills and Pinecrest elementary school buildings are nearing their final completion. All that remains to be done is the installation of downspouts and gutters. Teachers have moved into the building. Some have been using their classrooms while teaching remotely while others are in the process of unpacking.

The bid for Donley’s phase two construction opens this Friday, and Leyko said the new Marble is proceeding according to its timeline.

Other Announcements

At Monday’s meeting, the Board voted unanimously to approve the budget calendar for the 2021-2022 budget. According to Finance Director Richard Pugh, the pandemic has not altered the process significantly, and the calendar is similar to those of previous years.

Trustee Debbie Walton acknowledged the ELPS students who participated in the virtual Science Olympiad, hosted by Haslett High School. ELPS ranked fifth out of 22 schools, and several students won individual first-place awards.

Walton also praised the work of Adam Orange, a German teacher, who organized a virtual field trip students for students in grades 6 through 12 to a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany. The guide only spoke German, and, according to Walton, a local German newspaper wrote about the virtual adventure.

Several School Board committees will be meeting in the upcoming week:

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