Okemos Public Schools devise plan
Okemos Public Schools, or OPS, drafted a “Safe Return to School Plan” that was presented Oct. 12 to the Board of Education. The board will take action on the plan on Oct. 26.
The school district conducted a survey among parents, guardians and teachers about their comfortability reentering the classroom.
Families respond to call for schools to open
According to the survey, only 29% of families would be very comfortable sending their child back to school during Phase four, while 53% of families would be very uncomfortable or uncomfortable sending their child back to school during Phase four of the MI Safe Start Plan Framework. The OPS Safe Return to School Plan allows options for in-person or virtual instruction.
Okemos families have adjusted since early March to online school. Students are learning in new ways through new mediums. Okemos parent Stephanie Durrance has two of three children in the Okemos Public School system.
Durrance’s children are in preschool and second grade. The mother of three said that although OPS is doing well handling online school, she feels that communication between teachers and parents could be better.
“One of my children prefers to be at home, but would do much better in a school environment,” Durrance said. “My preschooler isn’t doing well — she definitely needs to be back in a classroom.”
When OPS implements the Safe Return to School Plan, families will have to decide whether they prefer in-person instruction or continue from home.
Nearby districts offer in-person supports
Although Okemos does not have a before and after school care program, East Lansing Schools has one. Staff member Sophia Clothier said her position has transitioned from a daycare-type job to a tutoring-type job.
“We went from watching 50 kids alongside five to 10 workers to guiding six kids through online school in a room with three workers,” said Clothier. “It’s much more individualized, but there are still many obstacles.”
Clothier explained that many of the children in this program have learning disabilities, and there aren’t many resources available to them in online school.
Fellow employee Nerys Gravell shared an experience about her challenges in the position.
“I work with a child who has a parent in a master’s program at Michigan State University,” Gravell said. “They had trouble balancing their workload with their child’s, so they registered for before and after care, which now runs the whole school day. I was able to help this student complete almost 60 late assignments.”
Gravell added that this program allows students to have more organization and structure, but challenges arise from the differing schedules and needs of each student.
Restructuring what school looks like
If OPS “Safe Return to School Plan” is implemented classrooms may look more like East Lansing’s before and after school care program with class sizes smaller, and teachers will be assigned to the same groups to minimize exposure, according to the plan.