BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Editor
Just one week into Clarkston Community Schools starting the 2020-21 school year online due to COVID-19 precautions, concerned parents came together on Monday to stage a peaceful rally on Clarkston Road to prod the Clarkston Board of Education to consider opening the doors to district buildings.
The demonstration began a little past 4:30 p.m. and continued as board members and Superintendent Dr. Shawn Ryan made their way to the location for a Board of Education meeting where plans to return to in-person learning were discussed with a vote at the next meeting on September 28.
Ryan even stopped at the rally to talk to parents and to answer questions.
“(On September 14), the Board of Education received an email regarding a planned rally by parents in favor of returning to face-to-face instruction,” said Board of Education President Kelli Horst. “The board supports the intent of the rally, as it mirrors the goals of the administration’s tiered approach to reopening our schools for face-to-face instruction discussed at our Aug. 24 board meeting.”
One of the organizers of Monday’s rally, Dave Meyer, has a son in third grade at Independence Elementary and his daughter is a Level 3 special needs student at Pine Knob Elementary. His message with the rally was that parents should have options when it comes to their children’s education.
“We are simply hoping to show the board that there are several parents that want our choice to send our children to school,” Meyer said. “We were originally given this choice in Dr. Ryan’s well thought-out, flexible plan, (but) this choice was taken away from us just before the start of school. The district has made every effort and the teachers, in my experience, have done a phenomenal job trying to make their distance learning classrooms work. However, online learning simply doesn’t work for all children, and there are many of us that would like to see our children flourishing in school.
“Many children, I would argue most, learn best in person. We understand that not all children are able to take this calculated risk due to comorbidities, or high-risk family members. This is what was great about Dr. Ryan’s original plan as it provided for all family’s needs.
“I strongly support our district. Everyone is working tirelessly to do what is best for our kids. This is not a demonstration against our district, but simply about giving families a choice for their children.”
Leslie Trombley has a daughter at Pine Knob and doesn’t see the positives to learning electronically. She wishes schools would reopen immediately.
“I have a first grader who is already struggling with the 8:30-3 schedule on a tablet,” Trombley said. “Who needs that much screen time?
“If people can pay for their kids to go to private school, daycare and even Funshine at the Early Childhood Center building, then why can’t kids go to public school?”
Overall, the district explained how it has every intention of returning to a traditional school setting once it is safe to do so.
“We respect the rights of those who wish to demonstrate in support of in-person learning, and we want to go back and stay back in school with little disruption,” said CCS Marketing Director Mary Ellen Rowe. “Under the guidance of the Oakland County Health Department, we will bring all students back on campus in a thoughtful manner as soon as we possibly can.”