With Covid Surging, Huge Absentee Rate at ELHS, and the City of East Lansing Is Taking Emergency Actions

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As Covid-19 surges and East Lansing's High School is seeing huge rates of absenteeism, East Lansing's City Hall and Public Library are taking emergency actions.

With Covid case rates booming in Michigan thanks to the Omicron variant, the City of East Lansing is taking emergency measures and one teacher at East Lansing High School reports that over 500 students have been absent at the high school.

Writing on Facebook’s “Support Public Education in East Lansing” group, East Lansing High School teacher Tim Akers wrote that “over 500 students [are] out at the high school the week before finals.” Akers asked “that parents grant teachers a bit of grace. We are feverishly trying to come up with a plan that is equitable for as many students as possible. We are in uncharted waters.”

Currently, the East Lansing Public School’s Covid-19 dashboard only shows 12 active cases at the high school, but the district is only required to post active cases that are believed to have been transmitted inside the school building. It is possible then that students are absent after contracting Covid-19 over the winter break or from other illnesses.

The City of East Lansing is also trying to cope with the current wave of infection from Covid-19. Yesterday afternoon, the City announced that “the majority of public meetings for the City of East Lansing’s boards and commissions will be canceled through the end of the month due to the significant spread of COVID-19 in the community.”

Additionally, “Community members are advised that the East Lansing Public Library (ELPL) will be resuming capacity limits in the library building due to the significant spread of COVID-19 in the community.” Masks are required in all City-owned facilities, including the library.

Meanwhile, there’s no plan for a vaccine mandate for City employees. A letter on that topic from City Manager George Lahanas to the Parks & Rec Advisory Commission was shared with ELi by Adam DeLay – a member of that commission who ran unsuccessfully for City Council on a transparency platform.

Lahanas says in it that it made sense for MSU to have a vaccine mandate, but that, without any vaccine mandate, East Lansing “has continued to provide services, primarily on an in-person basis. Over this period, our services have continued without any major interruptions, or any significant COVID-19 spread in the workplace.”

The City will “move forward with a vaccine plan after it has been formally established by MIOSHA,” writes Lahanas. (See the letter here.)

City meetings canceled or moved:

This month, City Council will continue to meet at the Hannah Community Center as scheduled (Jan. 11, 18, and 25), but members of the public are being “encouraged to take advantage of virtual options for viewing and participating in these public meetings.”

Information about public meetings is available at the City’s meeting portal page. When agendas for Council are posted, they include information about how to call in or participate via Zoom in terms of public comment.

Members of the public can watch Council meetings via the meetings portal page, via Zoom, and on East Lansing Community Television, also known as WELG or Channel 22

One other meeting that will definitely still take place is the Election Commission’s meeting of Jan. 11, but that will now happen at the Hannah Community Center instead of City Hall, to allow for more spacing out of people. (Other boards and commissions may also meet this month, depending on urgency of business, if they can reach quorum.)

The State of Michigan no longer allows meetings to be held virtually since that option expired at the end of 2021. Now, elected and appointed officials must meet in person and, under the Open Meetings Act, they must provide the ability for the public to attend and to make public comment if they wish. The State allows meetings to also be streamed digitally or broadcast, and it allows for public participation by phone and internet (in addition to in person) if a body so elects. That is the approach currently being used for City Council.

If you’re planning to attend a meeting in person, note that the City requires masks in all City-owned facilities (although in practice, based on ELi reporters’ observations, no one has been ejected for not wearing a mask).

Access to the Library is being limited:

Effective January 5, the East Lansing Public Library is limiting access to the library to 40 people at one time, with masks required. If the number of people in the building has reached 40, you’ll have to wait until someone else leaves before you can enter.

No plan has been indicated about accommodating kids who typically go to the library after school. According to the library director’s last report to the library’s Board of Trustees, “After-school Teen Time had close to 90 teens attending each school day.”

According to that announcement, “Community members are reminded that the library continues to offer a digital library, curbside pickup, 24/7 hold pickup lockers and other virtual offerings for patrons. Visit www.elpl.org to learn more.” 

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