BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Editor
Clarkston Community Schools students will be back in buildings for the second semester.
At the time of Superintendent Dr. Shawn Ryan’s last update to the community before Christmas, virus rates in the immediate community were increasing.
The Clarkston school district transitioned to a temporary distance learning contingency and this safety measure served its purpose in mitigating the spread of the virus.
“While our priority and preference has always been face-to-face instruction, I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the tireless efforts of our teachers, who have ensured a rich and supportive academic experience for students during this transitional time of distance learning,” Ryan said. “Our educators have shown grace and flexibility at every turn.
“The mental, physical, and emotional health of all of our students is important to us, and we are committed to serving students and families in the ways they need most.”
Beginning this past Monday, students with IEPs in Level 3-4 programs will resume in-person services and instruction Monday through Friday from 8:30-11:30 a.m., with distance learning in the afternoon Monday through Wednesday.
All other students will continue distance learning through January 15.
Thursday and Friday this week are half-days of in-person learning for Level 3-4 students and half-days of distance learning for all other students. Next Monday, January 18, there is no school for staff or students (MLK Day) and the following day, all elementary students return to buildings according to traditional school schedules.
Secondary students with last names L-Z return to buildings according to traditional schedules, with all other secondary students distance learning. Next Wednesday, January 20, all Y5-12th grade students will be distance learning. Elementary students will participate in distance learning from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. with lunch from 11:25 a.m.-12:25 p.m. Secondary students will continue the traditional school schedule.
Next Thursday, January 21, will see all elementary students in buildings, secondary students with last names A-K return to buildings, all other secondary students distance learning. Then on Friday, January 22, all elementary students in buildings, secondary students with last names L-Z in buildings, all other secondary students distance learning
For the week of January 25, students will repeat the hybrid schedule with all Y5-12th grade students distance learning on Wednesday, January 27.
Beginning Monday, February 1, all students Y5-12th will be in buildings, five full days a week.
“No pandemic plan would be complete without recognizing the tremendous ‘mental preparation’ required of all of us as we move forward,” Ryan said. “You may feel anxious or hesitant to begin this walk with us. You are not alone. As a starting point in our transition, we can all look to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the powerful message he left with us. The civil rights leader stood up in a time of turbulence and unrest, not unlike the world we’re living in today, and acknowledged his uncertainties, fears, and the magnitude of the work that awaited him. But he had faith. Dr. King said, ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.’
“Our path forward starts with a single step together.”
Distance learning was mandated for Everest’s high school students beginning Wednesday, November 20, but 45 days later, EC students were back in the classroom at the Clarkston campus.
Despite the early wake-up after Christmas break, students were excited to be back after starting Trimester II in early December.
For some time, Everest has considered changing its academic calendar to a 12-week trimester system rather than the common school system of quarters and semesters.
The 2020-21 school year and its circumstances made such a decision even more advantageous. Over the course of the year, 6-12 grade students now take five courses per trimester in addition to their elective course rather than seven courses and an elective course. Everest piloted the trimester system for the 2020-21 academic year and continues to assess both its advantages and potential disadvantages for students and faculty.
“The trimester schedule allows me to better prepare for my classes,” said Everest high school math teacher Nghiem Nguyen. “With the longer planning period and fewer subjects each, I am able to focus my attention on improving instruction. The longer class periods enable me to have deeper discussion and more enriching activities in class with my students. Even the transition to trimesters, which required a considerable time commitment, has been fruitful because it produced a serious examination of my curriculum and lesson plans. Redundancies were eliminated to make room for major concepts. In most classes, I am ahead of schedule compared to last year.”
There are many benefits for students and staff with the trimester system, including slightly longer class periods allowing for better focus and less time lost in transitions as well as a reallocation of workload with fewer courses to manage.
During the weeks of December distance learning, the course load was more easily managed by students with fewer courses.
“It lessens my workload a bit, and it isn’t as hard to keep up with my classes,” said EC freshman Kathleen Thibodeau.