In the city of Midland, Midland Public Schools is the only public school option for students within city limits. K-12 schools converted to online learning due to COVID-19, and the district devised a plan to move forward into the possibility of returning to in person classes.
MPS Curriculum Specialist Steve Poole said that this change was sudden for the school, and they only were informed just when Gov. (Gretchen) Whitmer announced that schools were closed on March 12th. Poole said they were talking about the possibility of going online, but did not have any concrete plans when the governor began this shutdown. This school systems, in midland, and nationwide, to have to adapt to what is being described as the new normal.
“The first week of shutdown really allowed us to be prepared,” said Poole. “There was a lot of communication at all levels at MPS. The principals worked with the curriculum office to establish the Continuity of Learning Plan. Teachers had to concentrate on essential standards that were needed for the rest of the semester.”
The Continuity of Learning Plan released by MPS directly stated what was required of teachers to do for students to replace a normal class, and the policies MPS would use to finish out the year.
According to the section of the document pertaining to high school classes, students had two classes a day, for around an hour each. Teachers were able to schedule office hours at some point in the week to have meetings with students to discuss progress, and help them continue learning, according to the document. Finally, the document states that final grading for the semester would be credit/no credit, instead of traditional grading.
Students like Midland Dow High senior Aiden Moneypenny said students in the district faced a massive challenge when it came to finishing out the year. Moneypenny said students really had to stay on top of new info relayed out by the administration in the week between classes being cancelled and online work beginning, so they could not miss out on work and risk not graduating.
“The senior project is the biggest thing we do in second semester senior English,” said Moneypenny. “For my class at least we were expected to still do some of it but the majority was canceled, which made our total assignments for English be very small.”
Moneypenny said MPS was eventually able to establish a system resembling some sense of normality. While not perfect, they were able to get assignments out to all students, something that Poole was quite proud of.
“I am very happy with what MPS was able to do,” said Poole. “Both of my children attend MPS schools and they were able to finish their semesters. I know that we did much more than some other neighboring districts.”
A few months after MPS started to get into a new sense of normal, the major flood hit midland. This caused damage to the schools and its some technology devices, said MPS tech department employee Garrett Walden.
“The flood was the last thing we needed this close to the end of the year, especially in a year which we were so dependent on our computer system,” said Walden. “Some of our offices were in the flood zone meaning some damage did occur causing us to have to scramble to get things running again.”
Dow High School also was right in the middle of the flood zone, and Poole said the damage was not just to their computer systems in the media center.
“We had musical instruments damaged as well,” said Poole. “We had to inventory and will have to submit insurance claims for those that were damaged or destroyed.”
This flood caused the curriculum to have to adapt even more, as over 10,000 Midland residents had to evacuate, according to an article by mlive. With people forced into temporary shelters, or staying with family, or friends, people had to leave school items behind as evacuation orders came fast.
“The flood was a huge problem for a section of Midland,” said Poole. “For some students, that was the end of online learning for them.”
Moving forward into the fall semester and beyond, Poole said that MPS plans are still uncertain, as they do not have protocols from the governor or CDC yet. As Northwood University has said it is returning to in person instruction, MPS has not said anything official yet, although Poole made his position on what he hopes happens clear.
“I do not think that learning online is what is best for students,” said Poole. “I am hoping we can get back to face-to-face as soon as possible.”