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  • By Lisa Brody

Birmingham, Bloomfield schools going virtual

Bloomfield Hills Schools officials have made the decision to begin the school year completely virtual rather than in-person and Birmingham school officials are expected to formally vote tomorrow on its superintendent's recommendation to do the same. Bloomfield Hills Schools made the decision at a board of education meeting on Thursday, August 7, to start the school year remotely. Superintendent Pat Watson wrote in a community email on Friday, August 8, “Last night, I presented the Board of Education with our COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan, as required by Governor Whitmer. The board voted to adopt the plans as presented and approved them to be sent to the state. Following the approval of our COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan, the board had a lengthy discussion about our return to school, grappling with the complexities of this complicated time. Ultimately, out of an abundance of caution, the board voted to start the school year remotely.” Birmingham Public Schools came to the same determination on Friday, August 8. “Over the last week, BPS leadership has continued to carefully consider the situation facing our community, state, nation and world. It has become evident that the safety standards we sought to implement in our hybrid return plan are not sufficient to reasonably ensure the safety of our students, staff and community. In light of this, I will be recommending to our Board of Education a full virtual return for all students as we begin the 2020-21 school year,” Superintendent Mark Dziatczak wrote on the district's website prior to a board study session on Tuesday, August 11 at 6 p.m. where it is expected to be formally adopted. Both districts have developed thorough virtual educational learning programs in anticipation of school being open as well as an option for families if they did not feel comfortable with their children attending in-person education in a school building. In both districts, unlike in the spring, virtual educational options include mandatory participation and attendance, traditional grading and assessments, daily, live, virtual instruction for all students via Zoom or other video conferencing method, use of district teachers, and deployment of technology to all students and staff. “Our team will quickly pivot and focus our full attention and efforts on preparing to welcome all students back virtually. We will welcome students in a way that continues to create a sense of belonging and strong relationships. We will brainstorm ways in which we can provide care for children of working families and academic support for students who need one-on-one time with a teacher. Together, we will return to school in a way that maintains safety and honors the values we hold as a school community,” Watson said. “A revised school calendar with expanded professional learning opportunities for teachers prior to and during the school year focused on best practices in virtual instruction” will be sent out, Dziatczak said. There will be the districtwide purchase of required and supplemental virtual educational tools like EdPuzzle, GoFormative and Think Central, which are tools that promote virtual student learning. “Continued exploration of safe, small group social activities and athletics outdoors and through partnerships in our community” will continue. “I anticipate that this decision will be met with a range of reactions, from frustration to praise from our community. I understand and offer assurance that we are prepared to deliver the highest quality virtual experience possible for our students given this extraordinary situation,” Dziatczak said. “Together, we will return to school in a way that maintains safety and honors the values we hold as a school community,” Watson said. An evaluation of the decisions will take place around the first of November.

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