Ferndale Schools Making Plans for Fall, “Ready to Pivot” as Necessary
(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 29, 2020)
Ferndale, MI – Parents of Ferndale Public Schools Students tuned in Tuesday evening for a Facebook Live meeting with Superintendent Dania Bazzi and other school staff to learn about the district’s plans for the fall.
The plans, which are still in process, include a virtual path and an in-person path, with parents having the option to go virtual even if others are learning in-person. The plan has options that coincide with the stages outlined by the State of Michigan, which reflect where the population is in terms of COVID-19 infections.
“I want to assure the community, we are going to do what’s best for kids. We’re going to provide education and experiences that you are used to as a Ferndale Eagle,” Superintendent Bazzi said. “This are constantly changing, constantly evolving. We have to be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice.”
1,581 parent responded to a survey put out by the district. There was representation across all buildings and ages. In the survey, 49.7% of parents were hoping for virtual classes, 25.5% for in-person classes, and 24.8% were unsure.
Parents had questions for both in-person learning and online. The Ferndale School Board has not yet approved final plans, so Tuesday’s discussion was of tentative plans and ideas.
Staff outlined various cleaning procedures, including the disinfecting of all classrooms between classes and sanitation of buses. Changes in the buildings include desks spaced further apart, windows left open when possible to provide fresh air, and sanitation stations. Students and staff will all be screened before entering the building, with question about their health and a temperature check.
Oakland County Health Division is providing nurses to all school districts, and Ferndale will have three of them who will help when questions arise. For example, if a student becomes ill during the day, the nurse will be there to determine the best course of action in the circumstances.
The district is planning to make a video showing the schools and changes so families will feel more comfortable and know what to expect.
Masks will be required for students in 6th grade and up, and recommended for theK-5 kids which is in line with state requirements. “We aren’t going to send students home because of the refusal of a mask,” Bazzi said. “We’re going to educate our families and our students about the importance and the ability to reduce the spread of a virus that we know spreads very easily. So it will be done through education.”
The district has ceased all building rentals to outside parties, and if in-person education continues they will be vigilant about minimizing outside visitors.
The hope is to continue band and choir if there is in-person learning, and sports opportunities will happen in line with guidance by the Michigan High School Athletics Association.
Regardless of the state’s phase, students will have the option for online learning. Ferndale Schools has purchased an online learning management system that allows students to take four core classes and two electives. There are pre-made components as well as freedom for teachers to create their own content, guide the lesson plans, and have online meetings with classes and students. The program includes Advanced Placement (AP) courses and a variety of electives options.
The program also has features that the impromptu programs the district launched in the spring did not, including a common landing page for all parents with the student’s classes pre-loaded on the homepage. Students can change their electives if they have signed up for one that doesn’t work well for them with online learning.
The school district has been scrambling to acquire Chrome Books to provide to students that need them. Nationwide the demand is high, and the schools have ended up with a variety of models. Parents were concerned about students not being able to interact on camera in the virtual classrooms. Some of the laptops have web cams and some don’t, but those that don’t can have a camera attached via USB port. Bazzi said she hopes to have enough Chrome Books within the month.
The logistics of re-opening are still being worked out. The Board of Education is hosting a study session on the matter Wednesday, and is expected to have a plan to vote on at their Aug. 11 meeting.
Here is the full meeting:
Parents with further questions can reach out to Director of Communications Bill Good at Bill.Good@FerndaleSchools.org.