School, Michigan, Superintendent, Academic year, Student West Bloomfield Schools Assistant Superintendent Discusses Return to In-Person Learning

Thank you for having me again, ronnie, it’s good, to see you. You know i. I know that we talk to you a lot, but the information changes quite frequently as well. It does i. I think i would like it to not change quite so frequently at this point in time. It’S been a long year, but yes there’s always something new to talk about. So thanks for having me again, i will say i would think that the high school students most of them were so excited to get back into the building how’s it going. It was great, so we welcomed our high school students back for the first time since last march, uh last thursday, and so they had two days back in person before we had the weekend. It went really really well. I i definitely want to give a lot of a lot of support and praise for our teachers and our administrators at the high school, and particularly our transportation department in the district who are managing cohorts at every single level. Midday runs early morning runs afternoon, runs and getting kids there safely every single day, multiple times a day, so we’re excited to have the high school students back back in the building, because it is confusing for people that are out and about because we are used to Those regular school hours, but i know that the kiko harbor police, time or police department a lot of times an officer will sell outside roosevelt um.

You know to help direct traffic or just to put the lights on, so that people are aware, because the times they’re all screwed up right now, i’m always like. When do the kids come? When did they go? I i don’t know i it makes the day go. Very quickly because there’s always someone moving, and so i know that our principals um definitely feel that they just get kids in. They get settled and then it’s time for the that first cohort students to leave. And then the next cohort arrives about 90 minutes later and then get through and do the afternoon. So the day goes very very quickly so and it is um we’re still following what we’ve always done, which is really four tiers of busing. So north end south end middle school, high school, so buses run in our district all day long and it’s important for the public to understand just to be. You know extra careful with so many of the kids out, because nothing has been regular during this time. Uh. But with that i know that uh, the school of choice window is about to close. Do you want to fill us in on that sure, so um we’ve been a schools of choice, uh really kind of um participant for a number of years here in west bloomfield. So kindergarten through second grade is, is just typical schools of choice, so it’s a lottery, so families from outside the district who are interested in sending their students to west bloomfield.

The deadline is tomorrow to apply to be involved in the lottery and then obviously we have steem, which is our roosevelt campus, our middle school and high school. So students who are interested in participating in science, technology, engineering, arts and math are able to apply for our steam program. There is an assessment, and so we gave our first round of assessments actually for kindergartners who want to come into the district on saturday. We did it via zoom and it was great they were so cute and they did so well and then for our middle school and high schoolers. We did in person assessments on friday, so families who are interested in coming to west bloomfield who do not live in the district. That deadline is tomorrow to apply. What are you looking for when you do an assessment? Well, obviously, we want students who who uh really look like and and demonstrate the same academic abilities as the kids in our district, so we’re looking for that um with our kindergartners we’re. Looking for readiness, skills, we’re looking for students who kind of have that aptitude for math and that have and really can interact with their peers and are ready to come to school so and do a lot of collaboration and communication and some some activities. That would demonstrate that as well, and you might think that four and five year olds, via zoom can’t, do that they were so good and they and they you could tell that everybody has been on zoom, that there’s really it’s it’s just the norm right now, because We we assessed about right around 50 kindergartners, so not would be kindergartners four and five year olds on saturday and they they drew pictures and they did all kinds of stuff.

It was awesome and no no issues at all with zoom. So those are the sorts of things for middle school and high school. We are looking for those students who who demonstrate an aptitude in math and and um engineering and have an interest in the steam field. So how many are you accepting? We don’t know yet at this point in time, so that’s actually determined by the board of education, and so we will make a recommendation to them. Uh at monday, night’s board, meeting february 8th. We haven’t really determined that yet we actually have a meeting scheduled for that wednesday to look at our number of applicants to look at the number of students, particularly for steam, who have met criteria, which means they’ve they’ve done well on the assessment. They’Ve met our attendance to kind of check, they’ve they’ve checked out as far as their behavior goes and suspensions and so forth, and then obviously, for schools of choice. K2 it’s just based on enrollment numbers, so we’ll have a recommendation: that’ll go to the board and then ultimately the board will decide on monday evening. Well because right now, with coveting, so much remote learning is enrollment down or is it up right now we are we’re. Almost flat actually so we had anticipated um a pretty significant decline in enrollment and luckily in west bloomfield, where other districts have have experienced that we have not um so we’ve actually had pretty much stable enrollment from last year to this year.

I think the addition of lakers online, so the ability to have a fully remote option for families has really been attractive and will be something that we’re going to continue in the future, because we know that we’ve we’ve filled a need for some families as well. So i think flexibility is the key. So i know my brother in law is a teacher in macomb county and one of the things they’re actually doing is sending people to the homes of some of the students that maybe they haven’t heard from in a while. Are you guys experiencing any of those problems or no because you’re requiring attendance? Well, we are, of course i mean, i would think it’s not widespread, and our principals have done an excellent job and counselors identifying those students reaching out to their families. If we’re not getting a response, then we get our school liaison officer involved. Who will do a home visit? I know some of our principals and social workers have gone out to do home visits kind of wellness checks just to make sure everything is okay. You know it’s making sure that we keep our students engaged in our families and understand that even if you’ve chosen to to remain remote that you do there, you are expected, it is still compulsory education until you’re, 16 and so you’re expected to be there every single Day, even if that’s remotely and that it’s not it’s, not vacation um, and so we we continue to reach out to those families and provide resources and really talk about.

If it’s not working in remote learning, then we probably should think about coming back to in person, because that that tends to be a little more structured and maybe what that child needs it’s so hard, because every child is different and every home environment is different as Well, so it can be challenging, but are you hoping that this is at least the start of getting back to some type of regular schedule? Well, we hope so you know we, i, i think, yeah for sure for a number of reasons, one i think it’s just so that we we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We’Ve put so many safety precautions in place and and whether that’s social distancing that’s our masks that’s, making sure that we’re cleaning on a regular basis with it in between cohorts and throughout the course of the day. Then we are making sure our employees are screened. Every single day, when they come in um, we have, we were fortunate to be able to offer a vaccine clinic for our employees on friday, which was awesome and and giving flexibility when our when our employees do have appointments outside the district for their vaccines. So we’ve done everything that we can at this point to get our students back in person safely um. I think it’s just always that that balance on what’s that tipping point um to be able to make sure that we can keep kids in place, that we don’t have to have this rollercoaster of open clothes, open clothes, because our safety protocols have worked.

We anticipate and are planning that you know next year. Our hope is that we get to come back and that it’s that it is uh, so the new sense of normalcy, i think, will probably quite honestly if crystal ball me not. This is just me speaking. We might still be wearing masks and doing some of those kind of precautionary things, but i think we we anticipate coming back in the fall as normally as possible. I do think what we’ve learned, though ronnie is that we need to be more flexible and that flexibility for students, whether those are little people or middle schoolers or high schoolers, are really key, and that education now looks very different and can look very different than what It has for for the last 100 years, so we really want to embrace the positive things that we’ve learned out of all this and continue those and then make sure that we’re addressing the learning needs of all of our students, because you know i’ve been watching. Some of the issues that are going on in chicago right now with the teachers threatening uh to strike and those are hard conversations you know when there’s not enough vaccine to go around. These are hard conversations for districts to have to face. We have such a good working relationship with our with our unions, our teachers, unions and our support staff unions that, and we we value the fact that we before we make anything public before we go before the board before we do any of those things that they’ve Been at the table and part of those discussions, we um, we survey our stakeholders, our parents, our staff, our students about what’s, going well about where what they believe need to be those next steps and their level of comforts and not saying that we meet the needs Of every individual needs of every family, every single time or every individual staff member every time.

But we can say confidently that when you, when you involve those those stakeholders and your decision making and your discussions, it goes much better. Um and and everybody feels like they’ve been heard and that they have a voice and we’re going to continue to do that. Well, it is tough, we, we are not seeing widespread vaccine coverage and so and it seems to be rather haphazard whether some people are able to get appointments or not, and so we we still have to continue to put those mitigation efforts in in place so that We can keep kids and staff safe and then, on top of that uh the variant that is coming out uh. You know, i know that washtenaw county is experiencing it the university of michigan. How concerned are you and the leaders over at the west bloomfield school district? How worried are you about the variant? Well, i think, worried because we’re not sure what that means and what that what that could do to all of our our plans and what we’ve been able to do by bringing students back in person. And so i think it is again where uh this push to go really fast and to return to normal. We understand because it’s it’s, something that we we all want and that school is one of those important places for students to be and that for families to have that normalcy and to return to work as well. And the flip side of that is making sure that we aren’t putting our students and staff at risk and that we don’t become a place where we’re um we’re having to open and close.

If we have classrooms that have exposures or whole buildings that have exposure. One thing we notice about high school students: is they don’t, socially distance off, really well right, so that that is a real struggle to not congregate in the halls, to not have lunch to not have to be able to stay after school and do clubs and activities In the same way that we have, but we really just need to continue to be very, very stringent about our our expectations and about what is safe at this point in time and kind of to tread lightly, because we aren’t sure what these variants are going to Be and until we have vaccine coverage for everyone that wants it and it feels comfortable and that we know that it actually works against the variance. I think we just have to go. We have to go slowly in order to get back to that sense of normalcy, but one thing we did see with some of the high school athletes they wanted to play so badly that they were really kind of policing themselves to say we need to follow the Rules because we want to be able to play so, do you think some of the high school students are going to be so excited to be back in the building, but also looking forward to those end of the year traditions that they want to be able to Have so maybe they are going to place themselves a little bit better so that they can hopefully have some of those traditions we hope.

So i noticed you know. We didn’t have any issues this last week and haven’t had any k 8 with mask um that’s, not everybody has their mask on there’s. I think what’s just become part of the norm at this point in time and expectations, so students are wearing masks. They know that they need to stay away from each other when they’re in the buildings and probably outside the building as well and you’re. Right about you know, if you look at our football team and our swimmers and um, certainly our volleyball team and our other outdoor sports cross country and so forth in the fall, we were able to to really hold sports normally um, because our students were so vigilant And our staff were so vigilant about those those safety precautions um. You know we’re in a holding pattern right now, of course, with winter sports, so they are practicing as as best they can at this point in time, they’re not having contact with one another. So they’re not doing typical drills and those kinds of things, but i do think that the more they put kind of police themselves and it’s, not necessarily, of course, as we know what happens within school or within school activities, it’s. What goes on on the weekends and so and and when they’re out with their friends and so forth? So i think they. We all just need to remember that we’re excited that restaurants are opening we’re excited that are there other entertainment options out there besides staying home, but we still need to to remember to follow those safety precautions.

So we can keep schools open and we can maybe bring back winter sports and we look towards the end of the year with prom and graduation and those really important end of the year activities. We need to make sure that we can that we get we’re able to do those safely and we don’t have another another outbreak, deanna bearish with us here anything that we didn’t touch on that you want to share before we let you go. We just are excited that we were. We have everybody back k, 12 right now, pre k through 26, actually in the west bloomfield school district, and we will continue to partner with our community and with our parents and our staff as we move forward for for the rest of the spring, i will say: Um for some of the students, they probably feel like they have new wardrobes, because you know they’re putting the pajama pants away and actually getting out their jeans right. They were very cute when they came into school on friday. They were. It was like really like. Truly, the first day of school, they were excited. They were wide awake for that 7 45, which they’ve not been for quite some time. So we were. We were happy to welcome them back well, thanks again for all but uh you and all the members of the team are doing over there to try to make this possible as well a lot of sleepless nights for all of you that’s right.

What do you think?

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