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Chelsea School District Staff Present Summer School Plans and Flexible Friday Focus

By Crystal Hayduk

The Chelsea School District (CSD) Board of Education learned about plans for summer school at its virtual meeting on April 12 from Heather Conklin, director of curriculum and education.  

The district’s goal is to address the academic needs while also providing an experience that engages the whole child, Conklin said.

Current kindergarten through fifth graders can attend four two-week sessions of three days each, with academics in the morning and other activities in the afternoon (social-emotional, arts/crafts, and field trips) embedded in Chelsea’s Camp Gabika.

Middle school sessions will take place three mornings a week in two four-week sessions. In addition to academics, there will be time for team building, critical thinking, social-emotional learning, and community connections.

At the high school level, summer school will focus on credit recovery in core academic classes four mornings a week in two four-week sessions.

Summer sessions will be taught by certified teachers. Students who did not meet grade level expectations will be invited in May to attend.

In addition, the district is drafting a list of resources, tutors of all levels for many subject areas, and summer workshops.

Several teachers reviewed how their work on “Flexible Fridays” provides higher quality instruction to students throughout the week during the pandemic. Adam Schilt, a high school English teacher, began by providing the following context: COVID-19 has disrupted life; families and staff deserve to be safe and healthy; children deserve quality education while teachers deserve the opportunity to effectively perform their work; teachers have adjusted curriculum to accommodate virtual, hybrid, and in-person learning; and the task has been daunting, as evidenced by a 44-percent increase in Michigan teacher retirements since August.

“We hope that some version of this [flexible] time will be preserved throughout the school year,” said Schilt.        

Schilt, Teddy Lewis (elementary teacher), and Katy Steklac (band teacher) detailed their typical Friday schedules, which included but were not limited to instructing virtually, communicating with students and families, grading, revamping curriculum, planning, and collaborating with their teams.

Schilt said having time to meet individually with struggling students on Fridays has been invaluable.

Lewis said, “Our goal is to meet the needs of each student that walks through our doors. When we return, our Friday afternoons will continue to be filled with this high level of collaboration so that we can continue to bring our students our best.”

Betsy Ratliff described her work with high school students who need extra help (academic/social/emotional). She works with students in small groups Monday through Thursday, but more students come to school for “async Friday work days.”

Ratliff said she hopes the district “…will think outside the box and be creative as we reimagine what education will look like going forward,” identifying what is best for each student rather than simply returning to “business as usual.”

Board President Kristin van Reesema read the board’s statement regarding the completion of Superintendent Dr. Julie Helber’s evaluation: “Dr. Helber continues to provide professional and caring leadership for the district. Through a year of extraordinary circumstances, Dr. Helber continues to be a collaborative leader who makes decisions that are reasonable and focused on achieving the goals outlined in the Portrait of a Graduate. At this time, the board of education wishes to extend Dr. Helber’s contract for another year.”  

To commemorate paraprofessional appreciation week, Helber recognized district paraprofessionals as “absolutely outstanding people.” She said they keep the district running and provide helpful, positive support in any way possible.

Although the board had approved a plan on March 22 to return to in-person meetings, the increase in local COVID-19 numbers led to the last-minute decision to continue using the Zoom platform.

During the opportunity for public input, Theresa Plank requested the board continue to meet virtually at least until the start of the 2021-22 school year, provided that is when individuals under 16 will be vaccinated and can safely participate during an in-person meeting. She said she feels it is important for public comment to be accepted both in person and virtually.

“I haven’t been able to identify any benefit in-person school board meetings has for our students or our teachers,” she said. “Focusing on in-person board meetings only meets the needs of the board members.”

In other board news:

The board commended the district’s music department for receiving the 2021 Best Communities for Music Education Award from the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).

The board approved the purchase of school building furnishings as follows: North Creek Elementary School – $572,367.45, South Meadows Elementary School – $480,858.86, and Beach Middle School – $572,922.59.

The board approved a document identifying the group’s norms. (See below.)

Upcoming dates:

There will be a work session at 6:30 p.m. on April 26 — location to be determined.

The next regular board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on May 10.

File_ Norms of the Chelsea Board of Education
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