DEARBORN — On Monday Oct. 12, the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education voted to extend virtual learning into November.
The approved motion called for continuing and expanding in-school learning labs where up to three students at a time come in and meet with teachers under current conditions.
Depending on local COVID conditions, these groups can be expanded up to six students. Learning labs have been available for some special education students since last month and were expanded to all schools last week.
The motion was passed with a 6-1 vote by trustees, with Jim Thorpe voting no and expressing that he believed the district was ready to start slowly bringing students back to the classrooms.
The district administration recommended starting to bring elementary students back to school in a split model where half the students would be at school at a time.
Three other options were presented, including every other day learning, every day being a half day or a shortened day every other day.
The plan presented started with options for preschool through third or fifth grade with siblings at the same school attending at the same time. Elementary students would be kept in one classroom with any special teachers for art or music coming to them and all touch points, including desks, would be sanitized every four hours.
The presentation was made by Staff and Student Services Executive Director Maysam Alie-Bazzi.
An option was also presented for bringing middle and high school students back. However, it is more difficult due to the number of students in those buildings and the need to switch classes. Alie-Bazzi offered an option for “Zoom in the room”, where teachers would simultaneously teach students in the classroom and online.
Monday’s board meeting lasted more than five hours long, as trustees discussed the plans and heard more than 50 public comments.
We continue to work towards the day we can start to bring our students slowly and safely back to school. — Glenn Maleyko, superintendent
The presentations also stressed that masks would be required at all times.
Alie-Bazzi advised the trustees that the district would need up to three weeks to finalize any plans that may be adopted in order to group students, figure out busing, cleaning routines, teacher schedules, adjust meal programs, communicate with parents and more.
While the district was hoping to return to school, they advised that parents who were not comfortable returning their children to in-person learning could ask to be kept on a virtual learning program.
With the state recently considering two or more cases to be indicative of an outbreak, Alie-Bazzi told the board that an entire school would close if recommended by the Wayne County Health Department, otherwise any confirmed cases would be quarantined and the entire classroom could potentially be moved back to virtual learning.
Superintendent Glenn Maleyko said he is anxious to get students back to classrooms.
“While we are anxious to get students back in schools, we have to ensure we do so as safely as possible,” he said. “Returning with a blended model will allow us to teach students face-to-face while reducing the virus exposure for students and staff.”
Maleyko also noted that restarting with the youngest students first was a priority for the district.
“We know online learning is the most difficult for our youngest students and their parents,” he said. “We continue to work towards the day we can start to bring our students slowly and safely back to school.”
The topic is expected to be revisited on Oct. 26.