DEARBORN HEIGHTS — With the school year starting off under a new normal, Dearborn Heights school boards are experiencing some hiccups along the way.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much present in the community, a lot of discussions occurred over the summer on the status of children returning to school this fall. Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-142 required all school districts to adopt a “COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan” where they explain how they will protect students and educators across the different stages of the “Michigan Safe Start Plan.”
D7 School District Superintendent Jennifer Mast said that the district decided to offer parents a choice this fall.
“We gave parents the choice of whether they wanted to have their children in the classroom or doing remote learning,” Mast said. “We actually have about 40 percent of our students in school learning, with the remaining 60 percent doing remote.”
While D7 gave their parents a choice, Crestwood School District Board Member Najah Jannoun said that Crestwood is strictly online for now.
“We originally planned for the first semester to be online and then reevaluate from there,” she said. “But with things changing so frequently we will be reassessing the situation on a monthly basis to determine what’s best.”
While students in both districts returned to learning in some facet this week, both districts have hit similar roadblocks.
“Our online parents are understandably frustrated,” Mast said. “There are a lot of technical processes going on behind the scenes that we are trying to work through. The first week of school is also very procedural, where we go over rules and expectations and things like that, but I think some were expecting to already be thrown into school work and that’s just not the process.”
Crestwood Schools Superintendent Youssef Mosallam, said their biggest hurdle is the technology itself.
“We haven’t received all of our Chromebooks yet for our students,” he said. “We are hoping to have them by the end of the week so we can distribute them right after Labor Day and be ready to go.”
With many parents also being concerned over the amount of screen time their children will be getting, both Mast and Jannoun said that students will not be staring at their computers for the duration of a normal school day.
“At the high school level, students will meet twice a week with their teachers to get their instructions,” Jannoun said. “Our students will not be online for a full eight hours, but will be meeting daily with their teachers in groups or one-on-one.”
Mast said that D7 students will be in a similar situation.
“Students aren’t going to be tuned in to the classroom,” she said. “They won’t be sitting there staring at a screen for their seven or eight hour day as if they were in a classroom; it’ll be broken out by assignments and things like that.”
I’m hoping decisions are made soon so that our kids can get back to doing what they love. — Jennifer Mast, superintendent, D7
Jannoun said that to her, the biggest hurdle is the emotional and social needs of the students.
“We had realigned staff and eliminated wasteful spending to where we are able to save a lot of money and budget for a support staff,” she said. “We are providing additional support for special needs students and we have hired social workers to be available for emotional and social support for the students who are struggling with this change.”
Mast said that she is hopeful a decision on sports will also be made soon.
“I hope that we can get to a point where kids can come back full time very soon,” she said. “This is a huge social piece and outlet for many of our kids and it’s very sad to see that they no longer have this outlet that they rely on. For a lot of kids, school is hard, but they struggle through it for the sports aspect. I’m hoping decisions are made soon so that our kids can get back to doing what they love.”
Being a parent with children in the district, Jannoun said her kids are handling the change very well.
“It was nice hearing them laugh and talk with their teachers and friends,” she said. “It’s never going to be the same and I know each person has a different situation, but we are all in this together. I know that my struggles are not the same as others’ struggles, but if we just be patient we can and we will get through this and we will come out of it even stronger.”
Mosallam said that the transition for Crestwood has gone relatively smoothly so far.
“It’s only the second day,” he said. “We are adjusting on the fly and will adjust as needed. We are appreciative of the patience and diligence of our parents and students and we have updated our website to show all correspondence that has been rolled out during this time. We are all in this together.”
Mast said that while this situation is unorthodox, her staff is prepared.
“It’s a matter of everyone being patient and adjusting,” she said. “This is not how we learned to become teachers and it’s hard, but our teachers are determined to give it a 110 percent effort each and every day. We just need to be patient, especially this first week or two, and we will get through it. Our staff has done a great job at helping our students adjust and our first few days have gone unbelievably smooth with the in-person learning aspect.”