Holly Superintendent Gives Updates on Return to Learn Plan
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 1, 2020)
Holly, MI – As Holly Area Schools plans to re-open their doors to students, Superintendent Scott Roper took some time to meet with local business leaders at the Holly Area Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast to give updates about the district.
In-person instruction is beginning Monday, October 5th for students in grades Y5 – 5th and beginning Monday, October 12th for students in grades 6th – 12th.
Holly Area Schools (HAS) has 3,200 students in a district that not only serves Holly Township, but students from Groveland Township, Springfield Township, Rose Township, and White Lake Township as well. Like every district in Michigan, the sudden closure of schools in March was a surprise to Holly administration. And for the past six months they have worked continuously to adjust to remote learning and meeting other needs of families in the district.
“No one was prepared for an 11:00 message that schools were closed,” Roper recalled in his presentation to Chamber members. “We worked very rapidly to operate and provide education through virtual means.”
Over 600 Chromebooks were given to students who needed them, and staff immediately began searching around for more sources. With so many transitioning to remote learning, and remote working, devices were hard to come by. “We purchased Chromebooks in May for deployment to every student in August,” Roper said. “Other districts are still waiting.”
They immediately began to coordinate things like lunches and food distribution.
They also navigated the challenge of remote learning. While some districts purchased access to online classes for their students, Holly found a way to do their own instruction. “We made a commitment to have our teachers with our students,” Roper said. “We didn’t just buy a program… Our kids are on a schedule and teachers are on the other side, using our curriculum.”
“This is a completely new way of delivering education, and we’re getting better every day,” he said.
The Superintendent explained that the State had sent out a 63 page Michigan Safe Schools Roadmap at the end of June, with 8 weeks to figure out the many areas of state requirements that included protocols about cleaning, mask use, spacing, food service, rules for gatherings, athletics, contact tracing and more.
“When we were handed this, there was no one available to help,” he said. But districts quickly came together to figure things out, with the support of Oakland Schools and the Oakland County Health Division. Roper said he meets with an epidemiologist every week, as well as with the health department and a nurse that is assigned to the district.
With the state allowing in-person study to resume – with safety protocols – Holly is going to have a mix of remote learners and in-person learners. A survey was done of the parents, and about 70% said they would be sending their kids back. The rest can continue virtual learning.
Roper explained that if a student or staffer tested positive for COVID-19, they will use contact tracing to alert those who may have been in contact with the infected party, so those people will be kept out of the building for 14 days. Students will have assigned seats in every part of their day, so that contact tracing will be easier. “We don’t want to send home a whole classroom. With the seating chart, we won’t have to.”
His hope is that parents and staff will be patient. “If we have a disruption, we just need understanding,” he said.
Holly Police Chief Jerry Narsh chimed in with a public safety return to school reminder. “Even if there are not students in the buildings, school zones are still enforced,” he said. “Watch for bus stops. Slow down. Be patient.”
The district has set up a Return to Learn page on their website that answers a lot of questions, gives updates about the plan, and has documents such as the safety protocols.