Farmington Schools works to ‘hold the kids harmless’ in shutdown

Dr. Robert Herrera
Dr. Robert Herrera (Farmington Public Schools)

With the extended closure of all Michigan K-12 buildings, Farmington Public Schools (FPS) officials are working to ensure students don’t pay a price for the unexpected end of their school year.

“Our common philosophy is we want to hold the kids harmless to the best extent we can,” Superintendent Dr. Bob Herrera said Friday.

Before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Thursday announcement, Herrera said, the district focused on meeting urgent needs, like access to technology and meal distribution. Teachers provided enrichments, including packets to families without internet access, designed to ensure students retained what they’d already learned during the school year.

“As we move forward,” he said, “we’re beginning next steps, making sure our students have access to technology and the internet… The second thing is talking about what this delivery system looks like and what we want students to learn through the end of the year.”

Plan by April 28

Under Whitmer’s order, districts have until April 28 to implement a distance learning plan approved by Intermediate School Districts. Standardized testing has been suspended, as have requirements for third grade reading proficiency. And seniors will be able to graduate.

After buildings closed in March, FPS administrators divided into work groups to deal with all areas impacted by the initial closure, from teaching and communications to human resources and finances.

“We need to be very intentional as we make decisions that affect every aspect of the district,” he said, “what instruction will look like, food distribution, making sure our employees are paid, our social, behavioral, and emotional supports, and our special populations’ unique needs.”

Herrera said the district will ensure secondary students have the credits they need toward graduation, and building administrators, teachers, and parents “are in the best position” to assess how K-5 students advance.

“This needs to be more personalized and customized,” he said, “but there will be some ethical standard to ensure students are learning.”

Seniors will graduate

Among the hardest hit by the closure will be 2020 seniors at Farmington and North Farmington High Schools, who may miss out on traditional year-end activities like prom and the Senior All-Night Party. Already, the Michigan High School Athletic Association has cancelled all spring sports, ending many senior athletes’ high school careers.

The first consideration, Herrera said, is to ensure students have everything they need to continue with their post-graduation plans. What the other events – including a graduation ceremony – will look like depends on how long COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.

“We are committed to putting something together for them, to the extent that students and parents want to engage,” he said.

Rely on teachers

If you’ve got a child at home, Herrera urges you to rely on teachers, who are ready and willing to help with academics and can find support for kids with emotional and behavioral needs. He suggests setting aside a space for school work and encouraging kids to study there without distractions.

What concerns Herrera most is “ensuring that all students are engaging in their learning with this new way of delivering instruction to our kids.”

“You combine that with the current climate in our society right now… it’s just a very stressful time for folks. How we’re helping support students and families through this and engaging our students to ensure they’re learning is a universal concern.”

But there’s a light in this tunnel, too. Herrera said the situation is forcing everyone to take a creative approach to learning and connecting.

“We’re learning how to develop relationships with students and families that we haven’t before, we’re learning to use technology in ways that we haven’t before,” he said. “My hope is that we’re very intentional with what we do and build off of the things we can do more strategically in the future.”

More information is posted on the FPS COVID-19 webpage. Questions should be sent to info@fpsk12.com.

If you’re interested in lending your skills talents during this time, contact School and Community Relations Director Diane Bauman, diane.bauman@fpsk12.net. 

 

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