By Crystal Hayduk
On April 3, Superintendent Dr. Julie Helber emailed families with the Chelsea School District’s (CSD) most recent update regarding educational plans in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the district closed on March 16, it was hoped that classes would resume as usual on April 6. However, as weeks passed and the number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 rose exponentially in Michigan and nationwide, it became apparent that in-person instruction and group gatherings continue to be a serious health risk, now and in the immediate future.
For that reason, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order (EO) 2020-35 on April 2. (The entire order can be read here: https://chelseaupdate.com/governors-executive-order-closes-schools-for-remainder-of-school-year/.)
Highlights of EO 2020-35 with CSD response are as follows:
Building Closure and Suspension of In-person Instruction: All K-12 buildings will remain closed and in-person instruction will be suspended for the rest of the 2019-20 school year, unless circumstances change, and the governor is able to lift current restrictions. District administrators are aware that personal items remain in school buildings. They are planning for procedures to help meet needs that prioritize safety.
Waiver Application Process: The district plans to request a waiver of requirements for students to meet the minimum number of days/hours of classroom seat time (“COVID-19 Seat Time Waiver Application”). The two-step process involves review of the application by the WISD (Washtenaw Intermediate School District), followed by submission to the MDE (Michigan Department of Education). The waiver application is expected to be automatically granted. Additionally, a learning plan must be approved for the district to continue to receive state aid funding. CSD administrators will meet virtually on April 6 to framework the plan’s structure. They will contact district staff to assist in developing instruction that aligns with the structure.
Continuity of Learning and COVID-19 Response Plans: The state has provided a model for the learning plans to include required guidelines. The CSD goal is that teachers and administrators will have a draft of instructional delivery plans that meet EO 2020-35 requirements on April 10.
Food Distribution: CSD has committed to continue to provide food for families in need. Distributions are scheduled for Mondays from 10 a.m. to noon at Chelsea High School; directional signs are posted. (The next food distribution is April 6.)
Mental Health Services: A team of social workers, psychologists, and counselors will meet virtually on April 6 to develop plans for continuation of mental health services and support to CSD students, staff, and families.
Salaries: School employees will continue to be paid. According to the executive order, staff may be redeployed “to provide meaningful work in the context of the Plan,” which is dependent upon the requirements of collective bargaining agreements.
Online Instruction: If the learning plan will utilize any online instruction, the district should ensure access to devices with an ability to connect to the internet. CSD has received four wireless hotspots, in addition to the hotspots installed on the exteriors of North Creek, South Meadows, Beach Middle, and the high school. Team members are attempting to identify locations in remote areas of the district, which will hopefully offer alternative availability for internet access. The elementary schools distributed iPads to their students on March 26-27. If a student was not able to pick up their iPad on those days, please email the building principal.
Students should not be penalized for inability to fully participate in learning plan: CSD will do their best to help students to access instructional materials and teachers, along with specialty staff support where needed.
District Partnering: The learning plan is a collaborative effort. CSD has been working as a team with the WISD and superintendents county-wide regarding implementation of the learning plans.
Enrichment Activities: Additional information will be communicated by building principals on Sunday as the district works on developing continuous learning plans.
Additional Information and Feedback: The most current information can be found on the district’s webpage in the Coronavirus Update Center at https://www.chelsea.k12.mi.us/updates. Helber and CSD’s administrative team continue to take part in townhall and county-level meetings to obtain information for district families. Anyone who desires to provide input or ask questions may do so online at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSel__nNoWeHG1IrEaH5aBZcqOaMgPLY6azdA3UA_5jsrXFkow/viewform. Answers to questions will appear on the district website.
Helber closed her email with gratitude for the community’s continued support of the district, and encouragement to stay safe. “…I have complete faith that, together, we will overcome this obstacle and be stronger than ever on the other side,” she said.