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Governor’s Office: earlier memo caused confusion

HANCOCK — A statement from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was issued on Monday morning regarding instructional time during school closure. The release stated that earlier on Monday, a memo issued by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) required clarification.

“Earlier today the Michigan Department of Education issued a memo regarding Instructional Time During School Closure,” Gov. Whitmer said in the release. “I know it caused a lot of confusion and panic among schools, teachers, students, and families. I wanted to provide some clarification from the perspective of the Governor’s Office.”

The memo, she said, does not mean that school work done during the mandatory school closure will not “count” toward grades, credits, or graduation. Each district should determine for itself what services and supports they are able to provide during this unprecedented crisis.

“Many are focusing on meeting basic needs and are working around the clock to provide breakfast and lunch for hungry students,” she wrote. “Other districts have the ability to provide more learning support as a result of one-to-one technology initiatives. I am in awe of the work that school employees are doing to support their kids and I applaud their efforts.”

The Hancock Public Schools, meanwhile, are doing both, according to a Friday afternoon email from Superintendent Steve Patchin.

Students, he said, were allowed to go to the schools to clean out their desks and lockers.

“All were so well behaved and many visibly sad,” he said in the email, “a sentiment all our teachers and staff shared in seeing them leave our buildings.”

Patchin said that the first “round” of activity packets were distributed to all the students, and thanked the many parents and students who picked them up. Other details include:

• The percentage of packets picked up were:

o Over 90% of elementary packets picked up

o Over 80% of middle school & high school packets picked up

o A heartfelt thanks to our teachers and staff who are working to create engaging activities for your students. We will learn together what works and explore new ways to engage them through these activities

• Wednesday curbside pick- up of breakfast/lunch bulk meal packages that provide each student food for seven days. Some statistics include:

o 218 students served

o Over 3,000 meals were distributed to students

o A huge thanks to our food service team who guided our teaches in staff in making this occur

Whitmer said in her statement that the situation in Michigan has changed rapidly over the past 10 days, but in spite of not knowing what the future holds, the state is absolutely committed to ensuring students’ parents’ and families’ needs are met.

“I will be working in the coming days to ensure our seniors graduate, and that no child is held back as a result of our ability to provide face-to-face instruction during the COVID-19 school closure, she said. “To teachers, administrators, and support staff – I thank you for stepping up and helping your students and families. To students and especially parents, hang in there. We will get through this.”

Patchin, in his Friday email, addressed many of the issues the governor did on Monday.

“Many of you have questions,” he said, “like: When will school start up again? Will the school year be extended? How does my senior get to graduate with his diploma? Will there be a graduation ceremony? Will this meal program continue? Will they be offering the SAT test for Juniors? Can districts begin teaching courses through a blend of packets and online? These are just some of the many Superintendents and teachers have.”

Patchin offered assurance to seniors and parents:

“Hancock Public Schools will be conducting a graduation ceremony for our students,” he said. “What this looks like will be determined by the many variables, but creatively we will find a way to honor and celebrate this accomplishment of our graduates. You have my word on this.”

While schools remain closed, Patchin said his team continues to work within the buildings, which began last Monday.

All week, they have been conducting a deep cleaning of all rooms, hallways, bathroom, gym, offices, lockers, and other areas.

“This process is thorough, and will take some time,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hancock Schools Public Library continued to offer curbside pick-up of books and reference material. This will continue Monday thru Thursday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Friday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Patchin’s email also stated that “our School Closure/COVID-19 Updates is now active on our website ( http://www.hancock.k12.mi.us/ ). Hit “Click for more Info” to access old posts, meal sign-up form, and other information.

Patchin’s email included a list of what students and parents can expect during the week of March 23:

• Breakfast/Lunch distribution:

o If parents have not signed their student(s) up for our breakfast/lunch program that provides up to 7 days worth of breakfasts/lunches, please see our attached flyer or website for information. If you have already signed up, you do not need to sign up again.

o Curbside pick up will be this Wednesday from 11 am to 1 pm at Barkell Elementary.

• Hancock Schools Public Library:

o Starting Monday, Hancock Public Schools students will be allowed to check out chrome books for 1 week at a time with curbside pickup. See the attached flyer for directions for how to do this.

•The next set of activity packets will be ready for pick up Monday, March 30.

•The week of March 23 is Spring Break week. “We encourage you to get outside and enjoy the Keweenaw. Our team has ordered good weather (near 40 degrees), go out and enjoy it! Hopefully many of you can enjoy the plans you had already.”

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