Bay City Public Schools School Board to consider early return to class
BAY CITY, MI – Students and their families have gone through an unusual start to the school year in the Bay City Public School District. Instead of gathering in classrooms to show off their new school supplies, students huddled around computer screens in their own homes. virtual lessons due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Now that could all change quickly as the Bay City Public Schools School Board considers a possible sooner-than-expected return to the classroom.
Councilor Veronica Papajesk made a motion on Monday, September 14, at a school board meeting, to begin face-to-face teaching on October 5. Papajesk said she spoke with several teachers and parents and sympathized with the struggles the families were dealing with at the time.
“I think we have to do better,” she said. “I think we could make it happen. I think everything would be fine. I think the teachers will be happy. But after talking to a lot of parents this weekend, I think as if we are failing our kids. feel like we’re failing in our district. I’m confident we can do it. “
The Bay City Public Schools School Board had previously decided to offer distance education only for the first term, or until October 26, depending on the state of the pandemic.
Through continued discussion at Monday’s meeting, the board began reviewing Papajesk’s plan, but wanted to see more details and options before making a decision.
“I would say we’re not ready to make this decision tonight because it was brought up on the fly,” said trustee Matt Felan.
Felan has advocated for a plan that gives the district administration one week to report to the Board of Education with information on possible options for an October 5 start. His plan asks the administration to provide details on topics such as what a hybrid model and a full in-person setup would look like and what security protocols can be put in place.
“Why don’t we expire for a week, but the expiration is with very clear marching orders,” Felan said.
Papajesk withdrew his motion to make way for a motion by Felan to hold a second meeting on Tuesday, September 22, where the board will consider potential options for an October 5 start, based on what is presented by the administration of the district. The motion was unanimously approved by the board. No changes have yet been made to the current educational plan.
Councilor Laurie Jeske noted that she would like to get input from teachers.
“We need the teachers’ input because I know how I would do it in my class and sometimes people forget that if you give a teacher a plan to give a lot of feedback on, they live it,” he said. she declared. come up with a plan beyond what we have. “
District teachers wereted no time in commenting. Several faculty members jumped at the opportunity to provide their input during the public comments section of the meeting.
Meagan Panzer, a teacher who once returned to class with students with emotional and cognitive disabilities in a self-contained room for two weeks, reflected and shared her experience with the board.
“I think everyone is doing their best, but personally I don’t feel like we’re ready,” she said. “Until last week, I did not have correct schedules, my students did not set up the bus correctly. Regarding PPE, we were given masks, gloves and spray, but never received any information from the district on what they expected from me. “
Aimee Allen, another independent teacher in the district, echoed Panzer’s concerns.
“I think in trying to bring everyone back, just like every little thing has to be planned out,” Allen said. “It’s great to be back in the building, I love it and my students love it but my frustration was not having answers,” she says.
Allen also spoke of issues with student transportation arrangements and poor lunches, in addition to a lack of guidance.
Meanwhile, Kristy Keenan, a teacher at Bay City Central, stressed that safety considerations need to be taken for her music programs, especially in a class she said co-teaches that has 99 students.
“I would just like to implore you, as you consider a plan to return to learning, consider the music programs and how safe it can be for us to come back,” Keenan said.
Handy Middle School teacher Bob Pawlek added, “I would love to be back face to face tomorrow if that’s for sure. So whatever arbitrary date you choose, I agree if it’s safe. I don’t think we’re there yet.
Circumstances of COVID-19
Bay County health official Joel Strasz presented the Board of Education with an update on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on educational institutions in the region that have opened their doors and possible risk factors throughout the year.
“While we are cautiously optimistic at this point, we know that there are a variety of indicators that could work against the introduction of face-to-face teaching,” he said. “We want you to be aware of this and to be aware of the risks. who are involved.
Strasz said he had so far seen minor disruption in private schools and neighboring districts like the Pinconning School District, which had opened their doors to education, saying he had noted that the parents of the private schools had been very diligent and vigilant about the health of their children.
“Everyone is on guard,” he said. They want the school season to be successful and to last as long as possible. “
Strasz cited cases where it is not necessarily a student who tested positive, but the Department of Health has had several cases where a family member or close contact has tested positive, prompting them to quarantine.
As the seasons begin to progress from summer to fall and cold weather begins to set in, Strasz said the spread of the community could occur due to the reduced number of people outside and lack of ventilation inside.
Strasz also mentioned that the reintroduction of fall sports, especially football and volleyball, carry risks and the health ministry anticipates a possible small increase in cases as these activities resume.
“We are cautiously optimistic about the introduction of high risk activities,” he said.
Recent events in the region have also caused the Department of Health to be on alert for a potential increase in cases. The Labor Day holiday weekend and the recent gathering of President Donald Trump at the MBS airport where approximately 10,000 people were reportedly present.
“What also worries us here in the community are the events that have a high potential spread, he said. “One was last Thursday’s rally, which we’ll likely see unfold in the week or two. We don’t really know how it’s going to turn out, we just know there were a lot of people crammed into a small place, not a lot of distancing or mitigation efforts like masking.
Progress so far
Superintendent Stephen Bigelow said the distance learning model the district is currently using at the moment has had its challenges.
“It’s been bumpy with great success,” Bigelow said. “Certainly, things that we expected, but which are difficult nonetheless. As you can imagine, we encountered technological problems, which I believe we have solved.”
Bigelow said the district had encountered problems in rural areas near Munger and Auburn that had Wi-Fi connectivity issues, even with access points provided by the district, prompting the district to provide access points from different mobile phone providers.
“We make sure we provide this WiFi to everyone who doesn’t necessarily have access to it,” Bigelow said.
Bigelow also explained that the district has partnered with community organizations, such as the YMCA, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and the Boys and Girls Club to provide Wi-Fi hotspots for students.
“One of the things that we are very proud of is the strong partnerships within our community,” he said.
More from MLive: