What Happened at School Board This Week?

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

Empty bike racks outside MacDonald Middle School.

At this week’s School Board meeting, Superintendent Dori Leyko addressed concerns that East Lansing Public Schools’ families have had since before the school year started—particularly about what is happening with regard to planning for students returning to in-person instruction.

Today, we bring you information on that more.

How is the decision being made to transition into in-person learning?

Leyko opened her Superintendent’s report by walking the Board and audience through the measures she is using to gauge whether it is safe to reopen and where she is looking to gather information.

ELPS is paying attention to:

  • COVID-19 cases and positive COVID-19 tests
  • hospitalizations due to COVID-19
  • number of deaths resulting from COVID-19 over a 14-day period
  • COVID-19 cases for each day for each 1 million individuals
  • percentage of positive COVID-19 tests over a 4-week period
  • healthcare system capacity
  • testing, tracing, and containment infrastructure with regard to COVID-19

In order to understand this information, Leyko said she uses MSU’s case tracker, the MI Safe Start dashboard, and the Ingham County COVID-19 dashboard, comparing data for Ingham County and the local community to elsewhere in the state.

Leyko and the Board must determine by September 21 whether ELPS students will continue online instruction for the month of October.

A survey seeking family input on when they would feel comfortable sending their children to in-person classes has been drafted, Leyko said, but she has hesitated to send it in light of the outbreak involving MSU students. She fears many parents will say they don’t want their kids to attend in person now but will change their minds in the upcoming weeks, making the survey less effective for planning.

Families will be allowed to continue online learning through the end of phase five if they so choose, so it is expected to be a long time before anyone is required to go to a school for K-12 learning in ELPS.

Superintendent Dori Leyko and the trustees look at the Ingham County COVID-19 dashboard.

How will the transition work?

When ELPS students return, the transition will take two to three weeks, and Leyko clearly identified the groups being prioritized.

According to the draft Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan, “Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), Young Fives, Kindergarten and First Grade will return first, followed by students in grades 2 – 5.”

For middle school, sixth graders will return first to become acclimated to their new building. Seventh and eighth graders will follow.

According to the plan, reacclimating high schooler will be different. Since classes are often multi-grade, students will return together but will be using a shift or hybrid approach to minimize the number of students in the building at any given time.

ELPS has already begun preparing for a return to in-person learning by purchasing PPE, cleaning supplies, and decals to promote social distancing. The Board also supported an amendment to its contract with a cleaning company, paying an extra $38,000 for an additional nine hours of daily cleaning through June 2021.

What will classes and resources look like in the future?

Leyko admitted that it is hard to know what in-person classes might look like. Since students can opt to engage in online learning, what physical classrooms look like will depend on how many students return.

How many students return will in turn affect what online engagement will look like.

“It might be hard for remote kids to zoom into actual in-person class. I imagine partial days,” said Leyko, referring to teachers needing time to appropriately engage students in-person and online simultaneously.

Students with special educational needs will meet in small groups, and IEP and English Language Learners will receive some individualized help. Students in need of assessments for a disability can receive them in-person.

Whether in-person or online, students will take some benchmark assessments and receive report cards.

“Middle and high school students will receive report cards on a quarterly basis – these students will receive letter grades or Incomplete, with an opportunity to make up work when students return to in-person learning,” according to the draft report.

What is happening with the lunch program?

The USDA recently waived some requirements, so ELPS will be using a more open process, resulting in greater eligibility.

Students age 18 and under and all individuals with special needs age 26 and under are eligible.

Seven days’ worth of food will be distributed behind ELHS every Thursday and deliveries made to 1855 Place, Spartan Village, and Deer Path Apartments. The Edgewood Community will pick up and deliver food to residents there.

Coming up:

On Thursday (today) this week, three committees of the ELPS School Board will meet, including Finance at 9 a.m., Academic and Technology at 1 p.m., and Policy at 3:30 p.m.

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