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Farmington Public Schools board votes to continue remote learning for elementary schools until at least Jan. 11

Board voted Tuesday with recommendation from district superintendent

A desk in a classroom
A desk in a classroom (WDIV)

FARMINGTON, Mich. – The Farmington Public Schools Board of Education voted on Tuesday for elementary schools to remain in remote learning until at least Jan. 11, 2021.

According to school officials, the board voted unanimously on the decision. The recommendation was presented to the board by district superintendent Bob Herrera.

“While the District feels that we are prepared to return K-5 students to in-person learning and have the highest level of mitigation strategies in place, the District administration is making the recommendation to the Board of Education that we remain in Distance Learning until at least January 11, 2021,” Herrera said.

READ: Clarkston Community Schools shift to distance learning due to spread of COVID-19

READ: More Michigan school districts forced to go remote-only as COVID spread impacts school staff

There were factors that the district presented to the Board of Education that led to the recommendation. Those factor included:

  • Oakland County moving to a Risk Level of E from a C within a few days
  • The Board of Education approved the return to in-person learning for K-5 when the community spread was at a Level C Risk factor. However in just a matter of days, our community moved from a Level C Risk to a Level E Risk. With the number of cases rising, and the weather changing, it is very unlikely the county we will be moving out of Level E anytime soon.
  • Oakland County Health Division (OCHD) Guidance for In-Person Instruction
  • While FPS has not had in-person schooling for K-12 students, we have had in-person learning in our early childhood center and special education classrooms throughout the district. We also have staff working in our schools/sites including Nutrition Services, Central Office, Maintenance, and Transportation. Unfortunately, we have recently started to experience more exposures and positive cases in our adults. The District currently has 37 staff members quarantined with only a small number of staff present in-district. Following the Guidance for In-Person Instruction, it says that Districts should consider remote instruction for the entire district.
  • Community Spread
  • While the OCHD has stated that they are not seeing community spread within school buildings, schools must deal with the impact of community spread. A high rate of community spread results in adults and students coming in contact with the virus outside the school. Although the District mitigation strategies reduce the chance of spread while in school, the District will face operational issues such as workforce shortages that will force the District back into a remote learning model or shut down various departments.
  • The increase in the number of families changing their selection from in-person instruction to remote over the past week
  • On average, over the past week, we have had 15-20 families per elementary school, approximately 140-150 families, moving from in-person instruction back to remote instruction. We feel this number will increase as we move through the weeks ahead.
  • Maintaining Continuity of Learning
  • It will be difficult to maintain a continuity of learning for our students if we are constantly moving classes from in-person to remote instruction as cases develop in schools.
  • Teachers will be able to focus on teaching remotely instead of focusing on the different methods for teaching in-person and remotely.
  • Disruption to Families
  • We acknowledge the disruption of this constant move from in-person to remote instruction causes for families. We want to provide stability for families so they know what to expect for the next few months.
  • Workforce concerns
  • If we have approximately eight bus drivers call out sick, we would not be able to transport students to and from school.
  • We have subs set up to accommodate class coverage but this is stressed when we reach approximately 10 percent of our teachers who are absent on a given day.
  • At this point in time, we have 37 staff members across the district who are in quarantine.

“We were looking forward to seeing everyone in person and hoping to soon return to some sense of normalcy in our schools,” Herrera said. “We know that other districts in Oakland County are struggling, as well, with the factors listed above.”

Students in the Individualized Education Program will continue to follow the district’s recommendation and remain in remote learning. Officials said the district will reevaluate its ability to return to in-person learning when it receives approval of its mitigation plan from the Oakland County Health Department.

The district is still planning to have middle and high school school return to in-person learning on Jan. 25, 2021.

To learn more about Farmington Public Schools, visit farmington.k12.mi.us.

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