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More schools are expanding face-to-face learning in metro-Detroit

Posted at 10:03 PM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-26 22:03:40-04

WALLED LAKE, Michigan (WXYZ)  — Parenting in a pandemic can be stressful. You want to make the best decision for your family’s health, your child’s learning, and social-emotional well-being. It seems sometimes there is no ideal answer.

That is the situation some parents again find themselves in as schools offer more options. Seven Action News is taking a look at changes schools are planning for and what they have learned.

School districts such as Walled Lake Consolidated and Huron Valley Schools are expanding their face to face learning options in the coming weeks.

Starting on November 4th parents can choose to send their elementary school students to school for face-to-face learning in Walled Lake Consolidated Schools. Before the district only offered virtual learning for the vast majority of students.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Kate Moore, whose daughter Olivia is a 3rd grader at Mary Helen Guest Elementary in Walled Lake, of adjusting in the pandemic.

Their family has chosen to continue virtual learning, despite the expanded offerings. The district has told them they have to commit to virtual learning until at least March to allow for staffing plans. Olivia says she has mixed feelings about it.

“Sad because I don’t get to see my friends, but happy because I am at home all the time,” said Olivia.

“Making that decision, it was tricky. I don’t know 100% if it was the right one,” said her mom.

“It is not easy. We have a son on the spectrum so that makes virtual learning much harder,” said Hillary Glaser, who has two sons in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District.

Glaser’s 2 sons will return to in-person learning when it is offered next month at Mary Helen Guest Elementary. She says she weighed their academic and social-emotional needs with the risk of the virus.

“At the end of the day there was no perfect decision,” said Glaser.

Glaser is PTA President at the school. She says she can see that the district is taking numerous precautions to ensure safety as much as possible. She is working on projects to support those efforts and thank staff through the PTA, which you can learn more about at https://mhguestpta.com.

In the meantime, Huron Valley Schools has offered part-time in-person learning since the start of the school year and is preparing to expand it from two days a week to four days a week starting November 9th.

“What we have found is there is actually very little spread within schools,” said Paul Salah, Huron Valley Schools Superintendent.

Superintendent Salah says students or staff who have become sick became sick it appears at gatherings outside school. They often attended social gatherings, funerals, or socialized without masks.

“We don’t have a single case where there is evidence of a student contracting COVID at school,” said Salah.

That does not mean students are not impacted by cases contracted elsewhere. A student attending school virtually while taking part in athletics in the district became sick with COVID-19. As a result, many members of the swim team are quarantining out of caution.

“Our opportunity to stay open for four days a week is really going to be based on what happens in the community outside of school hours,” said Salah.

He regularly meets with the Oakland County health department to analyze community trends. While there are concerning levels of COVID-19 in some regions of the state, the levels in the geographical area served specifically by the district are relatively low.

“For example this morning there were a total of 61 cases out of 57 thousand people. We’re looking at that data and also at our own school data,” said Salah.

Salah social distancing will be challenging as school days are expanded. He says sanitizing and masks are key. One unique thing the district is doing is providing every student with a Plexi divider at their desk.

“Our desk partitions are somewhat unique. Huron Valley is one of the few districts I am aware of that purchased the desk partitions. They are permanently affixed to desks at the elementary level. It provides an additional barrier between students and the teacher. At the secondary level, we have our students carry them from class to class, putting them on their desks before they begin their classes. I feel we have a lot of robust mitigation strategies in place,” said Salah.

Salah says if rates increase at concerning levels within the community or the schools specifically the district is prepared to move back to all virtual for the safety of students.

“As a school district we are prepared to do that at any minute if we need to,” said Salah.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.