With the new Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order calling for high schools to suspend in-person learning, local school districts have been forced to make tough decisions for their districts.
The Dearborn Heights District 7 School District had been the only district among Dearborn/Dearborn Heights that had allowed for in-person learning so far this school year, but now it, too, is transitioning to virtual learning only for at least three weeks.
“Following the MDHHS order announced this evening that will require a 100 percent virtual platform for all high school students in the state for three weeks, as well as a number of new cases in the district that has placed 14 staff and 82 students on quarantine, I have made the decision that all K-12 students will return to a 100 percent virtual platform starting this Wednesday, November 18th-December 8th,” Superintendent Jennifer Mast said in an email to parents in the district. “I realize that this will be very difficult for many of our families, mine included. I hope that this three week change to a virtual platform will be what is needed to return our face-to-face students back to our buildings safely on December 9th. Additionally, all athletics are suspended for the three weeks also.”
In a Facebook post, the district said that it had an influx of positive cases over the past weekend.
“Four staff members tested positive between Friday and Sunday,” the post said. “Those positive cases resulted in 14 staff members quarantined and 82 students quarantined. All but one of those 96 quarantines were at the elementary schools. District 7 keeps a running total of district cases and quarantines on the district’s website dashboard. Each building has a dashboard that keeps a running total of the cases and quarantines for that school only. These dashboards have been updated every Friday since the beginning of October.”
While D-7 had been offering in-person learning since August, Mast said it plans to resume after the three week pause.
“We will be reopening for in-person instruction at the end of the three week order from MDHHS,” she told The Arab American News. “Our students who were in person prior to the closure will return to school on December 10 unless they are in quarantine. Meal distribution will continue at all buildings. Distributions will be on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. This is available to all students.”
The Crestwood School District and Dearborn School Districts had previously planned to try to return to in-person learning this month.
“We’ve had to postpone our enrichment resource classes that were set up for K-fourth grade students that needed additional support,” Superintendent Youssef Mosallam said. “Winter sports are also postponed until at least Dec. 7, when we reevaluate.”
Dearborn Public Schools Superintendent Glenn Maleyko said he now doesn’t expect the district to go back until January.
“We do have a plan to return,” he said. “But we aren’t close to returning right now. We have been at a level E for the last month. We are following CDC and MDHHS recommendations and limiting staff in the building as well.”
Mosallam said that his main concern apart from the health and safety of students and staff is the social and emotional impacts.
“This is not helpful to our students,” he said. “We are re-emphasizing that we do have trained individuals that are available to help parents that are struggling as well as students. We can’t teach writing or reading unless we take down the social and emotional barriers that families have. Getting students back is a priority, but safety is most important. We want to be consistent. We understand this is not the best form of education and we are continually assessing what we can do to ensure students can get caught up.”
In Dearborn, Maleyko said that the emotional and social impacts are equally important in his district.
“It’s a problem,” he said. “In-person learning is the best learning. For students that are special needs or English language learners, this is hard. Our teachers are doing incredible things. Health and safety of the community is our priority and we are continuing to enhance our online learning experience. We have a social/emotional hotline and we do have social workers and staff that have completed training in these areas to help support our students and their families.”
Similar to D7, the Crestwood and Dearborn districts are offering meal distributions to students and their families.
Crestwood distributions occur every Thursday at Crestwood High School from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. and again from 4:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. and families are provided with enough meals to last for five days.
Dearborn’s distributions occur every Friday and are also offering meals for the week.
“No one wants to be in this situation,” Maleyko said. “But we have to do our part. Everyone has to be willing to sacrifice a little bit. We will get through this.”