DEARBORN/HEIGHTS — With COVID cases on the rise, local school districts have had to face whether or not to return to virtual learning again.
Dearborn Heights’ District 7 (D7) school district has decided to return to virtual learning beginning Monday, Jan. 10 until Friday, Jan. 21 due to the “increase and significant uptick in COVID positive cases and number of quarantines and isolations.”
In a letter to the district, Superintendent Dr. Ty Weeks said that the district anticipates returning to in-person learning on Monday, Jan. 24.
“Students learning virtually in a synchronous manner (devices turned on and students engaged with the teacher) will give our custodial staff an opportunity to deep clean and sanitize our buildings while they are free of most staff and all students,” the letter read. “This will also serve as a building-wide quarantine since we would be separated from each other for 10 days. Returning on Monday, Jan. 24 would allow us to be back together in buildings with a clean slate.”
We look at both students and staff in our decision-making and we have to make decisions that are based on what’s in the best interest of our district and based on data daily. We appreciate the community’s help and our staff for their diligent efforts as navigating this virus has been a full team effort. — Crestwood Schools Superintendent Dr. Youssef Mosallam
In the letter, Weeks also reminds the district that if it does not meet daily attendance rates, they may need to add school days to the end of the school year.
“All students will be given a device to bring home for their virtual learning experience,” the letter read. “The food service department will be providing breakfast and lunch five-day meal kits via meal distribution. Any families with school aged children are welcome to participate.”
The letter also encouraged vaccines.
“I appreciate your patience and understanding in making these essential adjustments to support the health and safety of our students and staff, families and community,” it read. “During the coming days, obtaining vaccinations and boosters for as many individuals as possible and ensuring our diligent practice of COVID-19 health precautions will support the continuance of in-school learning on as many days as possible through this winter. We will remain in close communication as we work through this time.”
Dearborn Heights’ Crestwood School District and the Dearborn Public Schools District have a different approach.
Crestwood Superintendent Dr. Youssef Mosallam said that the district reviews the data daily.
“As of now, we have no plans to go virtual,” he said. “We are staffed and the students who are ill have been staying home and our teachers and administrative staff have been very supportive of students who chose to stay home this week. We check numbers daily by classroom, grade level and building to make determinations.”
While there are currently no plans on returning to virtual learning, Mosallam said that may change.
“This can definitely change, but at this time we are not planning to go virtual,” he said. “We are reviewing closely day by day and things can always change. We look at both students and staff in our decision-making and we have to make decisions that are based on what’s in the best interest of our district and based on data daily. We appreciate the community’s help and our staff for their diligent efforts as navigating this virus has been a full team effort.”
Dearborn Superintendent Dr. Glenn Maleyko said that the district is prepared to go virtual if necessary, but there are no plans to do so at this time.
“We are reviewing both student and staff cases,” he said. “When we look at the data, we look at the classroom level first, then the building level, then the district level. We may quarantine classrooms individually or buildings individually before we go to a district-wide return to virtual learning. I support masks, vaccines and keeping kids in schools.”
Maleyko said that the hospitalization rates are what’s most concerning to him, but the district still has roughly 85 percent of student attendance in person.
“I can’t base any decision on public opinion,” he said. “I’m basing it on public health, data and the students’ needs. Returning to virtual learning at the district level is a last resort. I’m hoping we can continue our mitigation and keep kids in school. We may need to return to virtual learning, but at this point, I do not see the need to. If there is a need to, I will not hesitate to make that decision.”
Maleyko also said that the district cannot do it alone.
“Parents and staff have been very responsible by notifying the buildings via phone and staying home when they feel ill, which has helped not put any other students or staff at risk,” he said. “We will continue to be diligent, but this is a joint effort.”