TEMPERANCE, Mich. — In Michigan, school districts traditionally start the Tuesday after Labor Day. This year, that is Sept. 8.
Bedford Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Carl Shultz, said that this year, that may not be such a bad thing.
"Normally when this happens, we kind of fret because it means we're going further into the summer. However, in a case like this, where we need as much time to prepare as possible, we don't mind it," Schultz said.
On Aug. 18, Schutlz says 58% of students will return to school for in-person learning, while 42% will be learning virtually this year based on an option form parents could fill out.
"We believe strongly that we have designed a program that can be both safe for students and still offer high-level educational delivery," Schutlz said in a letter to parents.
Schultz goes on to say that school leaders will make the necessary changes to adapt if it is deemed they are unable to maintain a safe environment for students and staff, including possible individual classroom quarantines and flexible school cancellation days due to extreme heat and mandatory mask requirements, or even large-scale COVID-19 breakouts that could force full-virtual options districtwide.
Read the superintendent's full letter to parents below:
Dear Bedford Public Schools Parents,
I would first like to take this opportunity to thank all of the parents and guardians who successfully completed the BPS Learning Option Form before last week’s deadline. The turnaround for selecting your student’s learning option for this fall was undeniably short. However, I am extremely impressed with the over 92% submission rate which demonstrates the incredibly high level of school engagement among our community. At this time, district administration is working to contact any families who haven’t made this selection. In addition, our building leadership teams are working on adjusting existing student and staff schedules to meet the requests from our submitted forms. Overall, the breakdown for district learning submissions for the fall of 2020 are 58% of students will be learning in-person and 42% will be learning virtually. These percentages are a great representation of why the BPS Return to Learning Plan was created in the form of a parent option.
As district leadership continues preparing for the return of students into our buildings and programs, parents and students will continue to be updated as decisions are finalized. I know that there seems to be some confusion regarding some of the logistics of our learning options. As we get closer to the start of September, many of these questions and concerns will be answered through our partnership with the Monroe County Health Department and other outside agencies that guide our ability to operate safely and effectively. We believe strongly that we have designed a program that can be both safe for students and still offer high level educational delivery. Of course, if at any time it is deemed that we are unable to maintain a safe environment for students and staff, BPS leaders will make the necessary changes to adapt. This includes possible individual classroom quarantines, flexible school cancellation days due to extreme heat and mandatory mask requirements, or even large-scale COVID Breakouts that could force full virtual options districtwide. BPS is prepared for each of these scenarios and will share pertinent information with families as soon as it becomes available.
One topic that continues to be brought up regarding our learning options revolves around the “flexibility” of the secondary buildings’ learning programs. The ability for BHS and BJHS to offer attendance flexibility to our students comes from two important factors. First, the design of our cohort model at the secondary level makes it possible for students to receive the same learning opportunities regardless of physical location. Students at home learning virtually will receive the exact same lessons and learning activities as a student sitting in their homeroom cohort who is also learning virtually. Second, the State of Michigan has passed legislation changing the procedures for how students can be counted for attendance for this school year. This change allows for districts like BPS to incorporate new methodology when counting student attendance and thus allows for this more flexible manner. These two factors play a large role in our ability to allow secondary students who selected in-person learning as their primary learning option to learn from home when needed and vice versa. We asked students to select a primary learning option as a way to determine who would be utilizing transportation (only in-person primary selections are eligible for the first 10 weeks) and to help gauge the likely max number of students present on a given date. If this plan seems complex, it is because it is very complex with many moving parts. Anytime an organization is being forced to rethink every aspect of its daily structure, especially one that is as clearly understood and familiar as a school day, it is bound to be a little confusing at first. Secondary principals will be sending out additional information regarding schedules and activities in the near future.
Unfortunately, the elementary level learning options are not able to provide this same level of flexibility as the secondary level. Students selecting in-person or virtual learning for grades K-5 are committed to their program option for the first ten weeks of the school year and then can make an alternate selection at that time. This is due to the scheduling of staff to handle both learning options as teachers will be dedicated to one learning option or the other. Elementary classrooms will be smaller than in previous years due to the number of students electing virtual learning and thus social distancing will be greater than normal. Elementary principals will be sending out additional information regarding fall schedules and events in the near future.
As a parent and educational leader, I understand the anxious feelings regarding how schools will look this fall. I also understand the questions associated with our district’s plan and the fine details that still need to be addressed. If you cannot locate the answers in the district published FAQ, Learning Plan Guide, or the Preparedness and Response Plan (linked below), I cannot stress enough how important it is that you direct these questions to the leaders at your child’s individual school building(s) or to a district level leader such as myself or our Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Dr. Mark French. I am restating this point because of the great number of inaccuracies that I have seen being shared throughout social media regarding our plan. I enjoy social media for many of its great attributes, however I implore all BPS Families to remember that being properly informed regarding your child’s education is much different than asking social media “friends” for recommendations on the best restaurants for Friday date night.
Our district learning plan was submitted last week and approved by the State of Michigan yesterday. This plan is available on the district website and outlines additional information about district protocols and compliance of state mandates. The direct link to the BPS Plan is: BPS PREPAREDNESS & RESPONSE PLAN.
Thank you again for your dedication and patience and I look forward to seeing everyone healthy and safe very soon!
Carl Shultz, Ph.D
Superintendent, Bedford Public Schools