Even before the first cases of coronavirus COVID-19 hit Michigan, Farmington Public Schools officials were working on a district response to the world-wide public health concern.
During Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, School and Community Relations Director Diane Bauman said travel out of the country – including planned student trips to Costa Rica and Africa – are currently on hold. Custodians are regularly disinfecting all “high-touch” surfaces, from doorknobs to keyboards, and the district has a new system that uses electrostatic technology to quickly disinfect large items.
Bauman said the district has prioritized working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Oakland Intermediate School District, Oakland County Health Division, the Michigan Dept. of Education, Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services, and other school districts.
“We believe that by working together, we will be putting out the best information that is helpful to our staff and families, and making sure that our schools are safe places.”
A March 5 letter from Superintendent Bob Herrera provided tips for avoiding the virus and links to information from the CDC, and state and county agencies.
A new section of the district’s website contains similar links and will be updated as new information is available, Bauman said. She is also working on a list of Frequently Asked Questions. Residents are encouraged to send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advisory group formed
On Monday mornings, an advisory group of FPS staff members share information. Representatives will meet with elementary and secondary principals to get feedback about what’s happening in buildings.
Assistant Director of Facilities Management Jim Pearse on March 8 sent information to staff about extra cleaning and disinfecting measures. He has also ordered more than 500 hand sanitizer stations that will be installed in all FPS buildings.
”We’re also looking at obtaining disinfecting wipes – obviously not from Costco – so we can have them in each classroom,” Bauman said.
Transportation drivers are part of the effort; all have hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and sprays on board their buses. A fogging disinfectant system may also be used. Nutrition services staff are working with noon aides and custodians to ensure lunchrooms are safe, Bauman said.
Trustee Terry Johnson said the district is “moving forward in uncharted waters” and asked whether policies could be adjusted to allow students or staff to voluntarily wear face masks.
“I don’t know if there’s a policy against that right now, but I would hope that we would exercise some discretion with that at this time,” he said.
“From what I have been told, the masks that we can get right now do not serve any purpose,” Bauman said.
Johnson clarified that he’d like anyone who has a mask be permitted to wear one.
Trustee Richard Mukamal asked Bauman to consider putting together a mailed newsletter “to reassure (residents) … let them know that we are being proactive and all the things we are doing in the schools to keep the staff and students safe.”
Trustee Angie Smith asked about student travel refunds. Herrera said that trips are scheduled in June, and if the situation lightens up, the district may change its position.
“What we’re mostly focused on is looking to work with travel companies that offer some type of refund or some type of insurance you could buy,” he said, adding the district is looking into funds that would relieve parents from the financial burden of canceled or delayed plans.
“As disappointing as some of those decisions might be for our students,” trustee Jessica Cummings said, “it’s everyone’s health that we have to put first.”
Herrera said the board will be asked to weigh in with anything that involves changing a policy or practice in the district that affects parents and students.
View the presentation and Tuesday night’s full board meeting at farmington.vod.castus.tv/vod.
NEXT: How Farmington and Farmington Hills city officials are responding to the coronavirus.