Reed City to begin in-person learning Aug. 31
District to implement five-day instructional plan
REED CITY -- After much debate, Reed City Area Public Schools Board of Education members approved a motion Thursday to allow students to make a full return to school Aug. 31.
As part of this plan, students will have the option to learn five days a week in person or choose to learn remotely.
"We're a service industry. We want to provide options for what parents want. That's always been my goal," Superintendent Michael Sweet said.
While some area districts have agreed to push their start date back to September and begin with a hybrid model, board members ultimately decided it would be best for students to begin as soon as possible to get to know their teachers in case there should be a statewide shutdown later in the year.
"I think it gives our students an opportunity to start to learn what (new protocols) will look like before a possible shutdown," board president Jamie Eichenberg said.
However, others noted it would be best to begin with a hybrid plan after Labor Day weekend in order to see how other school districts around the state are doing before sending RCAPS students back to school.
"What I can tell you about a hybrid plan is that it does minimize the amount of people in a building," Sweet said. "So that certainly allows for much more social distancing. It allows for a greater opportunity initially to work with students about expectations and behavior because you're working with a small group."
However, with not much time before school is set to begin, he also noted there would have to be some significant changes to the academic calendar as well as additional virtual planning for the days students are not in school.
Some board members, such as Sherry Franklin, indicated this might be worth the additional planning in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus as much as possible.
"It seems pretty likely that it's going to be a struggle for school to continue for very long once we all come together," she said.
However, Sweet assured board members additional precautions -- such as screening staff and putting students in small cohorts -- would be taken with a five-day plan in order to minimize the spread of illness.
"If a student rides the bus, if the student walks through the hallways, those are all contact points. I'm not saying those are not there. What I am saying is that administrators are building schedules for students to minimize the amount of interchange they have with other students," Sweet said.
However, for those not wanting to send students back to school, a virtual option will be available.
According to a recent survey, Sweet said about 15% of parents indicated they would be choosing this option while about 25% said they were unsure or would prefer some type of hybrid model instead.
During the public comment section of the meeting, parents had the chance to express their concerns about these options as well as share how their children would be learning this year.
"As a working parent of two kids ... I think in-person learning would be best for my children," Tom Elkins said, noting his children, who use special education services, need one-on-one instruction in order to succeed in school.
Sarah Molenaar, whose daughter attends RCAPS, however, said she would not be sending her daughter back to school in the near future.
"Concisely, I don't think we should be opening schools," she said. "I think it's a disaster waiting to happen. ... My daughter will be home-schooled this year. She's disappointed, but from her own mouth, she doesn't want to get sick."
Maggie Walcott, a RCAPS parent and former student, also said she would be choosing a virtual option as she felt it was the safest choice for her children.
"We will get through this. And this period of time will be remembered but will still only be a blip in the lives of our children," she said.
While school is set to begin -- both in person as well as virtually -- Monday, Aug. 31, individuals can stay updated on any changes to this plan by visiting reedcityschools.org.