BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Editor
With August fast approaching, both Clarkston Community Schools and Everest Collegiate High School and Academy provided updates last week on what the 2020-21 school year may look like.
“I recognize the fair amount of anxiety stems from the uncertainty surrounding our return to school,” said Clarkston Superintendent Dr. Shawn Ryan. “No one was given a playbook for this pandemic, and if we had, it would have been rewritten a few dozen times by now. The best we can do is put one foot in front of the other with the faith our experience, collaboration, and collective wisdom will shine a light on the most logical next step.”
Ryan noted that staff members recently visited elementary and secondary schools and rearranged the furniture in a few test classrooms to envision the space as school is tentatively set to start on Monday, Aug. 31.
“We assessed outdoor areas and large group learning spaces that can be utilized,” said Ryan. “We also ran through the process and timing necessary to clean and sanitize surfaces between classes. We connected with the Oakland County Health Division and learned we can expect a detailed school health and safety toolkit in the next week or two.”
In the absence of this toolkit for the immediate time being, Ryan said CCS is moving its plans forward with specific guidance provided by the Kent County Health Department in Grand Rapids.
“If the OCHD recommendations deviate from the Kent County protocols, we will update our plan accordingly,” Ryan said. “We’re taking these steps on the faith the current public health climate will be stable in Phase 4. To date, the majority of our energy has been spent working on a Phase 4 return to school buildings, including plans for lunch, recess, specials, and electives like music, extracurricular activities, and campus visitor protocols. We are prepared to share those plans with you next week with continued faith we’ll be able to return to school in as much of a traditional setting as possible.
“That said, according to the governor’s definition, in Phase 4, ‘the epidemic is clearly decreasing.’ From where I stand today, I have concerns about our stability in this phase. We must continue to prepare for the possibility that our Phase 3 distance learning contingency model would be required to protect the health and safety of our students, staff, and families. We are watching the numbers, listening to expert guidance from state and local officials, and your feedback.”
At Everest, the school’s leadership team communicated an email to families saying that Everest plans to begin the 2020-21 school year with in-person, on-campus learning.
Given the current unknowns and the potentiality of changes to the current phase of reopening that Michigan is in, the school calendar has been delayed to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
“With many questions about the fall, the Everest team has also taken time to review carefully feedback of parents and faculty about the distance learning experience last spring,” reads the letter. “The 2020-21 distance learning framework provides adjustments based on this feedback to serve better the educational needs of our students and the realities of our families.
“The Everest team is also actively exploring options to allow for childcare options for students of specific ages where distance learning could be completed on-campus with supervision.
“We are looking forward to welcoming students back to campus soon. We know each family will have specific concerns and questions. It is impossible to meet every request and desire, but have outlined a plan that meets all requirements, provides consistency for students, fulfills Everest’s mission, and considers the education and well-being of our students as its primary objective.”