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Schools shut, but education continues

On Sept. 24, the Western U.P. Health Department asked for an emergency meeting with all of the local school superintendents because they were concerned with the growing number of COVID cases in Houghton County. The meeting was arranged within a few hours and was attended by every local school superintendent, along with three Health Department personnel.

Although all of the superintendents wished to continue face to face instruction, they all understood the Health Department’s need to shut down schools and take the pause that was recommended. It then became the school’s responsibility to make plans for how to continue education under these new conditions.

On Monday, September 28, all of our local schools were up and running. School staff were in their buildings setting up Google Classrooms, Zoom meetings, phone calls and even live streaming classes, along with many other ways of getting curriculum content to students. It is important to know that this time away from face-to-face instruction is very different than last spring. Last Spring, schools were asked to keep students engaged and that, for the most part, grades would not be given. This year, we are all better prepared. The schools’ curriculum will continue during this and any other pauses of face-to-face instruction. Education will continue at the usual pace.

The Copper Country ISD staff also continued to service students. Our Career & Technical Education (CTE) classes ran live and students were able to connect to their class during their regularly scheduled time. If a student had a conflict, all classes were recorded and could be watched at a time best for the student.

Our Special Education Teachers worked with their Paraprofessionals and the rest of the students’ Individual Education Plan (IEP) team to provide instruction to students throughout the day. They are all contacted families and students through phone calls and emails to schedule and coordinate instruction and assignments through Google Meets, Google Classrooms, and paper packets. Some students joined many Google Meets throughout the day in large and small groups, which included morning meetings, English language arts and math instruction, work on social and emotional skills, and reading groups. Some students joined general education classes through live streaming with our Special Education Teachers and Paraprofessionals.

Our Special Education Ancillary staff also continued to provide services to students and support to local districts while the school buildings were closed. Evaluations continued to be completed in person by the evaluation team. Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists provided teletherapy, phone calls or in person visits for students. Our Early On staff continued to do outdoor visits and meet families in community settings. Meetings and training with local school district staff also continued.

In our General Education Department, our CCISD Literacy coaches continued to meet with local teacher teams. They also created resources to help with virtual learning. Our Mental Health Professionals worked with students in Baraga and Keweenaw County. They worked with Houghton County school administrators and counselors on new systems and protocols needed to meet with students once they return to face-to-face instruction. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) department ran professional learning opportunities, assisting teachers with virtual teaching tools.

All of our local schools, including the Copper Country ISD, want to see students face to face. We are all hopeful that as a community we can get through this and be with our students. We must all do our part to keep our community safe and give our students the opportunity to attend classes face to face. Should we need to take another pause, however, our community should know that we have supports in place to continue educating our students.

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