Van Dyke Public Schools district has some students returning to classrooms this week

Nearly 60% of families in district are still keeping kids at home

WARREN, Mich. – Teachers at Carlson Elementary School in Warren are preparing to welcome back students to classrooms.

Dana Haigh is a second grade teacher. She has been teaching for 31 years. This week’s back-to-school is unlike anything she’s seen in that time.

“We have not heard the little pitter patter of little feet in this building for so long, since last March. It’s very exciting to know that I have a few of them coming in my room,” said Haigh.

Carlson Elementary is part of the Van Dyke Public Schools district, the only district in all of Macomb County that has not offered traditional face-to-face instruction yet. The district has small groups for special education, but the rest of the desks in their schools sit empty.

Why? Most parents in the district have not asked for in-person learning yet. When students can return to in-person learning on Tuesday, March 2, nearly 60% of families will be keeping their kids at home.

Related: Detroit public schools to resume in-person learning on March 8

Remote learning has been working for them as the small school district has been able to offer more personalized virtual learning. Even home visits have been made to check on students and families.

“We’ve also got teachers who are still waiting for vaccinations. We’re doing this in the safest and most effective way possible,” said Piper Bognar, superintendent at Van Dyke Public Schools.

This is the week that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has pushed for schools to return to in-person learning. Bognar said that target from the governor gave them a goal.

“It definitely did. And it also gave our planning team something to look at and say, ‘Here’s where we are with parents. Here’s what we can do in our building space-wise,’” said the superintendent.

Haigh will only have four of her second-graders back in the classroom right now. The rest are remaining remote. Even just having four students back in the classroom amid the COVID pandemic brings a little anxiety.

“Absolutely, but we’re also being cautious. We want to make sure the kids are safe, and our staff as well, and making sure the building is ready to have to kids back safely, so that we don’t have to step backwards again,” said Haigh.

There will be an online hybrid system for students right now.



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