The Road Back to In-Person Schooling

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Throughout Oakland County, people are adjusting to a new way of life during the Covid-19 pandemic, and almost everyone is wondering one thing: when can kids go back to in-person schooling? Like many other schools in Oakland County, Berkley has decided to have virtual instruction in the hopes that this will prevent the spread of the virus. The decision to go completely virtual was not an easy one, and people from many groups within the community came together to decide what to do.

When asked about how the decision to go virtual was made, Berkley School District superintendent, Dennis McDavid, said, “We were hoping that we would be able to have school in the fall, but preparations were in order in spring when we learned that we needed a much better option for online learning.”

Keith Logsdon, the president of the school board added on to this, discussing the preparation the district undertook, and said, “Our learning and technology staff spent a lot of time researching a good online platform and the online platform Schoology definitely fit the criteria.”

Mr. McDavid went on to talk about the decision process that he and the rest of the board went through to decide if it was safe enough to go back to in-person school. “Many things went into the decision process. We looked at national and state numbers, county numbers, and access to test administration.”

When asked about the challenges in implementing local and state guidelines, Mr. McDavid said, “The district was having some trouble getting some clear information from the local health officials. No one was exactly sure of the long term health effects on children who get this virus. Then there was a contradiction with the governor’s order at that time which stated that there can be no inside gatherings past 10 people, and we would be bringing in hundreds of kids if we sent them into in-person school.”

Despite some of these early challenges, Mr. McDavid says there is a clearer picture now and a new guidance document has just been sent out to schools.

This new document focuses on looking at the number of Covid19 cases per million people as well as the percent positivity rate. Concerningly, in the new draft, Oakland County is a high-risk area. To break that down, the document the district received looks at how many people are getting the virus out of every one million people. The percent positivity is looking at how often people are getting the virus out of these pockets of a million people. That is why Oakland County’s situation at the moment is so precarious, our percent positivity is not low and thus it is a high-risk area.

When asked about the circumstances we would have to be in to go back, Mr. Logsdon said, “Not only do the case numbers have to go down before we can go back, but we have to make sure that they stay well below the thresholds recommended by our local health officials.”

While it is not a guarantee we will be back by the end of the first marking period, the district’s plan for online school throughout September and October will hopefully decrease the risk and help get us back as soon as possible. When Mr. McDavid was asked when he personally thought they would be able to send students back to school, in person, he was honest and said because of the variety of unknowns and uncertainties he can not give people an exact date for when students will be back.

“There are still a lot of unknowns,” says Mr. McDavid, “but the goal is still the same as it was when all this began. To send our students at every grade level back to school as soon as possible.”

According to Mr. Logsdon, “The district’s facilities staff is stockpiling PPE equipment as well as ensuring all social distancing guidelines are implemented so that our students can come back to a safe school environment.”

“We really are doing all we can to ensure that we can get our students back to in-person school once more. But the one thing that is above this task is ensuring that our students are safe in school. You can be sure students will be back to in-person school when it appears that this is the case.””

— Dennis McDavid

McDavid also mentioned that they are constantly looking at the data and checking the case numbers so that they know when it is safe to go in person again.

“We really are doing all we can to ensure that we can get our students back to in-person school once more. But the one thing that is above this task is ensuring that our students are safe in school. You can be sure students will be back to in-person school when it appears that this is the case.”