FPS trustees confirm January 25 in-person start for 6-12

Farmington Public Schools trustees have confirmed a plan to open up in-person learning on Monday in middle and high schools.

More than 90 parents, students, and teachers commented during Tuesday’s meeting. The vast majority of teachers asked officials to delay the long-planned January 25 start date. Many asked for a delay until more teachers are vaccinated. Other concerns included a shortage of substitute teachers and an increase in class sizes.

Chris DeYonke said because schedules aren’t complete, teachers will have only three days to prepare for students. Also, he said, since K-5 students returned on January 11, staff in four schools have been quarantined.

Assistant Superintendent of Talent Development Kathy Smith said later in the meeting that those cases were not contracted in school buildings. 

Most parents favored moving head as planned. Some talked about the toll that remote learning has taken on their students. The mother of a senior said her child had already missed out on a number of final year traditions. Students said they struggle to stay motivated and focused with remote learning.

“The longer they are kept from school, the more detrimental it will be to them,” parent Julie Bell said.

Bobbie Hayes Goodrum, who takes over Friday as interim superintendent, said she learned that Oakland County receives only 2,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses each week, with 75 percent now reserved for those ages 65 and older. That leaves 500 doses for first responders and other front line workers.

“There are 18,000 teachers in Oakland County. We may not see all of our teachers vaccinated for quite, quite, quite some time,” she said.

Following a lengthy discussion, trustees voted 4-3 to confirm the secondary plan, which also keeps K-5, special education, and early childhood students in hybrid, in-person learning. Board president Terri Weems, secretary Donald Walker, treasurer Claudia Heinrich, and Cheryl Blau voted in favor; vice president Zach Rich, Mable Fox, and Angie Smith opposed.

Weems pointed out that should COVID-19 infection rates worsen, district staff could decide to pull students back into remote learning. She acknowledged that the situation was a struggle for many, as trustees balance safety and concerns about students’ academic progress and mental health.

“I appreciate and respect everybody’s opinion and where everyone is today,” she said, adding that no matter how trustees voted, “know that each of us is… putting the best interests of students and the district in mind.”

Watch the meeting:

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