BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Editor
Before the pandemic, Clarkston Community Schools, like most districts, had structured plans in place for students and staff that led to success for all involved.
Once March 2020 came, those plans changed and school lives were changed for the better part of the next 15 months.
During the July 12 CCS Board of Education meeting, the board discussed how COVID has opened their eyes to ways the district can be more flexible in terms of giving students and families more choices.
Secretary Steve Hyer, also a longtime board member, said in the past, board members have come up with off-the-wall ideas to discuss for CCS, and maybe it’s time to do it again, with input of parents and administrators.
“It won’t be a finished product and it still might not go anywhere, but it’s our job as a board to see if this fits with our community,” said Hyer. “Let’s maybe do a board administrative retreat where we take a day and come up with your best crazy ideas we might want to discuss and let us interact with the administrators who have an idea and we can talk through them, get some feedback.
“It’s a good way to meet the administrators we haven’t met yet because we’ve been virtual for so long and haven’t been in places where we would have met them. Maybe that’s a way where we take a day and funnel through some discussions. Ultimately, some of them might go forward and some of them might not, but maybe we can knock off two or three birds with one session if we’re willing to put the time in.”
Superintendent Dr. Shawn Ryan said he’d like to continue to survey the community moving forward to see if “some of those crazy ideas that can be a benefit are out there.”
Trustee Cheryl McGinnis noted the district has worked with students who have “elite training schedules and alternate schooling schedules” the privilege to train and get their education not at home.
“I thought we had a policy or at least we as a leadership team were doing that, but I just wonder how many parents know about it,” said McGinnis.
Ryan answered McGinnis, saying, “I think it’s more linear in terms of where students have the flexibility to be able to take some online classes or university classes that are integrated into our program. We’re always looking for students who are outside the box that way, but why do you have to be somewhat special to look at it as more of a unique program? I’ve talked to so many people who have said, ‘If I just had a little bit more flexibility, I can make this work.’ And they’re not working the system or trying to work around things, they’re truly trying to find more enriching programs.
“I’d be proud to be able to support it, if we could.”
McGinnis added she suspects many students worked well in a remote setting once COVID necessitated that adjustment.
“We can give them an opportunity to potentially expand into something they may not have been able to do if they were in the classroom Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” said McGinnis. “I’m all for giving our students and our parents more flexibility and more choices. We’ve always allowed our schedule at the high school and junior high to be driven by students’ selections, so I don’t see why this should be any different.”
“At least we can examine it more,” added Ryan. “We’ve entertained a lot of families this summer who know that my plan moving forward is to go back without masks, without distancing and without mandatory vaccinations, things like that.
“We want to make sure the other families who aren’t ready for that know we are still here to provide our services.”