ELPS Board of Education approves plan to return to in-person learning

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East Lansing High School building

McKoy Scribner

East Lansing High School campus remained empty in October 2020, but students may begin returning in January.

East Lansing High School campus remains empty on Oct. 2020. But students may begin returning in Jan. 2021

East Lansing parents and community members finally have clarification about when students can return to in-person instruction. On Oct. 26, the Board of Education met for its regular meeting held via Zoom and unanimously approved the  Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan.

According to the plan, students in preschool through 5th grade could hold orientation for in-person instruction the week of Jan. 4, and middle school and high school students the week of Jan. 18. 

But this depends on what the COVID-19 status is in Ingham County, more specifically East Lansing. Neither The Board nor Superintendent Dori Leyko made clear what case rates would allow for the return to in-person instruction. 

Mother and daughter Catherine Grosso and Marie Adele Grosso said that they wish to be in-person but know that this is the safer route. 

“To an extent I’m glad, but I think that it’s pretty difficult for the board to have a plan since we don’t entirely know what’s coming next,” said East Lansing High School junior Marie Adele Grosso. “So, I don’t know that the plan will necessarily stay in place.” 

Catherine Grosso said it’s been hard to watch school districts open and close, and it seems a pattern has emerged. 

“I understand that people really wanted a nitty-gritty detailed plan, but what I found extraordinary about our School Board is the extent to which they grounded their thinking in the best health information they had and the best science,” Catherine Grosso said. “When they say that the schools should open, I trust them.” 

School Board Secretary Chris Martin expressed his desire that Leyko provides updates on public health metrics as well as safety protocols that the district will be using for the return to in-person learning. Leyko assured that district administration will be taking action as early as this week to establish a safe return. 

“Requiring maks, requiring hand-washing breaks, and sanitizing breaks: those are all things that we can do, but those are also things that will bring some logistical challenges with them,” Martin said.

He said his belief is that they need to figure that stuff out now so that if things are looking better in the community on Jan. 4, the only thing that can stop the students from coming back into the classroom is the spread in the community and not the district’s lack in preparation.

Martin acknowledges that remote learning is not suitable or ideal for everybody in the community. 

“Here we are going on seven months since we shut down in March and we still haven’t offered a meaningful alternative to those families that are struggling with remote learning,” Martin said. “And the last thing that an education system should do is try to say that one size fits all, especially students with diverse interests and different needs.” 

Parent, Sarah Reckhow became more because of these issues. 

“I started a Facebook group called ‘We Want a Plan’ for reopening ELPS that has over 200 people in it now,” she said. 

Reckhow said that the presence of Michigan State University affects the community’s COVID rates and affects the prospects of K-12 kids going back to school during the 2020-2021 academic year.

“I don’t want to predict the future,” Reckhow said. “I’m hopeful that even if it’s not January, our district does find a way to have an in-person option in the spring semester.”