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Schools look ahead to opening with uncertainty

HANCOCK — Hancock Public Schools Superintendent Steve Patchin said Friday the district will soon approve their “Return to Learn” Plan, outlining instruction being offered in the fall.

“As we are working through final details,” Patchin said in an email, “we can share these facts regarding instruction options”:

• Face-to-face instruction will be offered in each of Hancock’s schools. Parents can expect a return to the high quality of education our teachers have offered in the past with some exciting new faces being added to the instructional team.

• Real-time streaming (online) of instruction each day during school will be available. For those not able to resume instruction immediately, students can stream their teacher’s in-class instruction from home while it is actually occurring. Students will be able to re-enter face-to-face instruction in a process to be rolled out during the semester when they are ready to return to school.

• Hancock Virtual School will be available for those who want to take course work at their convenience. This will be course-work where students can take all online classes to be offered from Michigan registered teachers through a high quality 3rd party provider. Students will still be a student of Hancock Public Schools, thus still eligible to participate in Hancock Athletics, but they will be taking their course on-line. Students will be eligible to return to face-to-face instruction at the semester breaks, when they have completed the online courses.

With Michigan schools scheduled to reopen on Sept. 8, education leaders are already preparing for re-closings, bridgemi.com reported Friday, discussing when and how to quarantine entire classrooms of children and how to shutter buildings where there are coronavirus outbreaks.

“Despite unprecedented precautions, ranging from face masks for all adults and students in middle and high school, to beefed-up bathroom cleaning protocols,” bridgemi.com reported. “School officials say it’s inevitable that some schools that reopen this fall for face-to-face instruction will have to switch back to remote learning when students or teachers test positive for the potentially deadly virus. That’s already happening in states where schools have opened for the new school year.”

The problem is not limited to schools in Michigan. On Friday, the New York Post reported that as the new academic year “is off to a chaotic start as schools open in some parts of the country while infections continue to rage. Already in the South and the Midwest, students and teachers have brought the virus to school with them, triggering quarantines, delayed openings and temporary shutdowns as positive tests roll in.”

Detroit News reported on July 16 that with the first day of class approaching, education officials report “lingering questions about whether they’ll have enough funding to implement needed safety measures,” concerns that many parents will keep their kids home regardless, and anxiety that’s “off the charts.”

Reopening K-12 schools in Michigan during a pandemic the News stated, will be a massive undertaking, but superintendents across the state say it must be done.

Patchin told the News that his feeling pressure in regards to reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re working with our teachers. We’re working with our parents. We’re working with our students,” Patchin told the News. “The pressure comes with a word. It’s called ambiguity,” he added, referencing unanswered questions about funding and what reopening will look like.

Masks, increased ventilation, social distancing measures and testing protocols are all needed to limit the chance of an outbreak inside schools, public health experts say, the News stated.

“But they add that what happens outside them is also important: The rate of infections must remain low,” the News went to say, “and that might take sacrifice from people across the state regardless of whether they have family members who learn or work in school buildings.”

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