BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (WXYZ) — Tuesday evening the Birmingham School District Board of Education is expected to decide what options it plans to offer families this fall. The district’s superintendent is recommending the district start the school year fully virtual.
Not everyone agrees with that recommendation.
At Birmingham Groves High School parents and students held a protest, calling on the district to offer an in-person learning option.
“We have great people in Birmingham. Tell us what you need and we will get it. If you need PPE. If you need plexiglass in front of the teachers,” said Brian Hamlin, a parent.
He attended the protest with one of his sons. His son said he has missed his friends, teachers, and learns more in school.
“We should go back in person. Sitting home is not really good,” said Chase Hamlin, who is going into the 8th grade.
“We feel this is going to be detrimental to our kids' mental health. They need sports. They need extracurricular. They need this community,” said Bob Shenefelt, a parent at the protest.
“I am so worried about not being prepared when I walk in freshman year of college because I was sitting at my computer screen,” said Nolan Werner, a student going into 12th grade who attended the protest.
“The younger kids especially, I feel like their brains are not developmentally ready to be behind the screen for so many hours,” said Dana Leischner, a parent who attended the protest.
They say virtual learning may work for some children but is especially challenging for most young children and children with special needs.
One mom says all three of her children receive special services during a normal school year. She says they need in-person instruction. One of her children is going into 3rd grade, has autism, and is non-verbal. Her youngest is deaf and going into kindergarten. She won’t be able to hear her teacher or read subtitles.
“She is deaf/hard of hearing. She only started hearing 16 months ago when she got hearing aids. When you have hearing aids they are basically transmitting digital sound into her ears. She is too young to read subtitles, and she can read lips, but not on a zoom with it going all over the board. It is just too hard. It is just too hard, even for adults who do it daily,” said Tressa Sanders.
As they protested, some people driving by yelled, “On-line saves lives.”
Birmingham schools Director of Communications and Family Engagement Anne Cron provided a statement in response saying in part. “We eagerly await a safe return of students to our classrooms. The recommendation to the Board at this time is a virtual start for all students, with a commitment to reassess our environment on November 1. We continue to listen to the voices of those within our community representing varying opinions on a return to the classroom, and will work together to seek solutions to the challenges this pandemic poses for students, staff, and families.”
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