Some Michigan districts making tentative summer school plans

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DETROIT — Summer school remains up in the air for kindergarten through 12th graders across Michigan, but some districts are making tentative plans for sessions that take into account protections against the COVID-19 virus.

More than 200 students have registered for summer school in suburban Detroit’s Novi Community Schools, The Detroit News reported last week.

The session is scheduled to start June 29.

The Berkley School District north of Detroit sent a survey to parents asking if they are interested in summer school, whether they preferred online, in-person or a hybrid summer program, and whether they would pay for summer school.

Districts still are under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order closing school buildings for the current academic year that ends in June and have not yet been cleared to allow learning inside school buildings.

Districts will need to build protocols to protect the health and safety of students, educators, administrators and support staff “in order to safely begin to plan for in-person instruction,” Whitmer spokesman Robert Leddy told the newspaper.

Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said it’s important to start planning to open buildings for face-to-face summer school as soon as July — pending the lifting of the governor’s stay-at-home order and the ability to create safe conditions for students and staff.

“We want to address this need in the safest way possible starting this summer,” Vitti said. “We can envision a hybrid of face-to-face instruction and online learning for both enrichment and credit/grades K-12.”

Opening a set of schools in each section of the city with smaller class sizes to ensure social distancing measures could be considered. Classrooms would be cleaned after use, movement in the hallways would be restricted, and students and staff likely would be expected to wear masks and gloves, he added.

“We would also consider mandatory COVID testing for employees who would be working with students,” Vitti said. “These are only concepts at this time. We will work more on these details during the upcoming weeks. Obviously, all of this is dependent on the governor and Legislature lifting the shelter-in-place.”

About 500 students attended summer school last year in the Novi district.

Students “haven’t been in school since March 16, and although we provided a robust online program, we know it’s not the same for every student,” Novi Superintendent Steve Matthews said. “We know students aren’t moving as quickly and doing as much as an in-class experience.”

Jori Trelfa said she would be more comfortable with an online summer class but would allow her seventh-grade son to attend Berkley summer school inside a building with smaller classes and classrooms cleaned between sessions.

Her son has learning disabilities and needs extra support, she said.

“We’ve done summer school in the past,” said Trelfa, of Oak Park. “It’s been extremely beneficial not to have the break in between semesters. No kid wants to go to summer school. But he knows after seeing how much it helped him last year that it would help him to go again.”

But the coronavirus already has helped make up the minds of some parents.

“I’m not comfortable sending my kids into a classroom just yet,” said Berkley parent Carla Osborne, who has a daughter in high school and son in middle school.

“It’s hard to say with things changing daily,” she said. “We may be in a better place in July, and then again, we may be right back to where we started. We need a longer stretch of not being together.”

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