Farmington Schools releases remote start recommendation

Farmington Public Schools on Friday rolled out a recommendation for a remote start to the 2020-2021 school year, as Michigan and Oakland County officials say COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

A state “Return to School Roadmap” designed to guide local decisions recommends fully remote learning in Phases 1-3 of Michigan’s Safe Start program, with more choices to implement in-school classes in Phases 4-6. While Farmington’s region is currently in Phase 4, Superintendent Dr. Robert Herrera said in a letter to families, COVID-19 cases are on the upswing.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer this week amended an Executive Order to tighten restrictions on bars and limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people, after a number of COVID outbreaks were traced back to bars and social gatherings.

“We do not feel that at this time the science and data support a safe return of all our students and staff for in-person instruction,” Herrera wrote. “We also took into account all of the feedback that we have been receiving from our families and staff in making our decision.”

Safety concerns

Herrera said the district cannot mitigate “all of the safety concerns for staff and students while we are still in a public health crisis. We can work to minimize the risks, but we are still concerned that we are not addressing all of the safety needs of those in our care.” 

In addition, he said, if the virus spreads in classrooms and schools, groups of teachers and students would be required to quarantine, making it difficult to maintain staffing levels and “continuity of learning”.

Herrera also wrote, “The development of screening and quarantining of students and staff requires clear and consistent guidance across the county by our local health department. At this time, this does not exist, and we need additional time to finalize our practices.”

Coursework graded, attendance required

The remote learning offered starting August 31 will look different from the plan put together after Whitmer closed school buildings earlier this year.

“Our world changed practically overnight in March 2020 and our staff stepped up and continued to provide instruction to our students,” Herrera wrote. “Now that we have had time to plan, our learning will be much more robust and provide for more rigor for our students for the 2020-2021 school year.”

Changes include traditional grading and assessments and required attendance.

Families will have the option to take a Virtual Learning Path, which offers remote learning even after students return to the classroom. The deadline to register is August 12.

Child care option

Herrera said the district is also working on a day care option in some schools, offered through the Farmington Family YMCA. The Y’s 9:1 staffing ratio would ensure social distancing guidelines are met, and safety measures will include masks and temperature checks.

District work teams continue exploring a hybrid option that would be implemented when in-person learning resumes.

School board members will review and vote on the recommendation on Tuesday, August 11, and more detailed information will be released on August 12. The plan will be submitted to Oakland Schools and posted on the district’s website on August 14.

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