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East Lansing High School on Jan. 24, 2020. Students who choose to return will attend ELHS in-person starting with an orientation week on March. 1

To Return or Not to Return

ELHS Students and Families Face Choice to go to School in-Person, or Stay Online

January 26, 2021

The Board of Education has approved a plan, beginning March 1,  to offer the option of in-person school to all high school students. Class placements will remain the same, but daily schedules will be slightly altered. Online students may watch classes taught in-person via Zoom. The school is attempting to vaccinate all teachers before they return, and there will be safety procedures for all in the building.

 

Since a Michigan executive order on Nov. 18, 2020, many schools have been conducted online. At a press conference on Jan. 8, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer encouraged schools to return to in-person by Mar. 1, saying “we must do everything we can to help our kids get the great education they need, and to do so safely.”

 

She also cited scientific data supporting the idea that following safety protocols would result in low transmission rates. 

 

East Lansing Public Schools responded with a reopening plan that would give students the choice to return to in-person school four days a week, for three classes a day (meaning there will only be two passing periods), or stay home and continue online learning. This plan was approved at the Jan. 25 Board of Education Meeting.

 

Parents were asked to communicate their choice in an online form sent out by district administration. As of Jan 25, 47 percent of ELHS students will be in-person, while 53 percent will remain online. The return date was scheduled to be Feb. 22, but has been pushed back a week.

 

Mondays will continue to be held online for all students, containing all six hours of instruction. Class assignments and the master schedule will not change.

ELHS secondary weekly schedule.
ELHS secondary weekly schedule. Via East Lansing Board of Education

Students who remain online, depending on their teacher, could “zoom in” in real time to classes being held at the school, or be provided content through Google Classroom. At the Jan. 11 board meeting, Superintendent Dori Leyko assured parents that there would be “a very high quality level of remote instruction for students whose families choose to remain online.”

 

For those who return to in-person instruction, safety precautions will be in place, in accordance with the State of Michigan Guidelines for Operating Schools Safely. This includes a mask requirement, physical distancing of six feet, desks a minimum of three feet apart, air purifiers in classrooms and clear desk partitions for every student. The campus will be closed, frequently touched surfaces will be disinfected, and students will not be allowed to gather in groups on campus. There is currently no cap on class sizes.

A boy sits a desk with a clear desk partion.
A clear desk partition similar to the ones being order by ELPS administration for the return-to-school. Partitions like these are recommended by the State of Michigan Guidelines for Operating Schools Safely as a way to mitigate Covid-19 risks in classrooms. Photo courtesy of Dori Leyko.

Some students doubt the capability of their peers to adhere to the rules put in place by the school administration.“I don’t trust the people in my school.” Fiona McCune (9) said. “I don’t trust people are going to wear masks or socially distance. I hate online school, but in-person I would be scared and worried constantly.” McCune’s family decided to remain online for the time being. 

 

If a student or staff member contracts COVID-19, the ELHS administration plans to contact the Ingham County Department of Health and Human Services, who will guide the school in contact tracing, and quarantining exposed individuals.

 

All teachers and staff are expected to return, but some exceptions, including high-risk conditions. This deviates from the original plan, in which both teachers were going to be given the option to stay home. Staff are being provided two doses of vaccinations if they choose, and the school plans to provide weekly antibody tests to them.

 

We are being responsive to the new info [that teachers are eligible for vaccination] to accommodate as many kids as parents wish to return to school while still providing a really safe place for our staff and students” said Leyko.

 

“I hope it will feel somewhat normal,” said Kate McAndrews (10). She plans to return to school at the proposed date. “I know it won’t be fully normal, with masks, barriers, and teachers who can’t really move around the class. For me it’s about being in school, actually seeing people, not just reading their names.”

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