Dear Forest Hills Families,
Today, we are pleased to release the highlights of our return to learn plan that describes how we will begin the 2020-21 school year. Our plan is based first and foremost on the health and safety of our students and staff members. Second, our plan is designed to deliver high-quality instruction, engage students, bolster social and emotional growth, and foster deep learning.
The plan was developed using the most recent data and science surrounding COVID-19 and reflects the differences in risk this virus poses for younger children compared to older students. We are grateful for the assistance of our West Michigan medical community in affirming the safety aspects of our plan. Pediatricians consistently report that younger children are least likely to contract COVID-19, are inefficient transmitters of this disease to others, and are at very low risk for developing serious complications. In contrast, most recent studies show that older children – middle and high school students – while unlikely to develop serious complications, may be as efficient as adults in transmitting this disease to others under certain conditions. Our plan reflects this updated research while providing flexibility to respond to emerging conditions as we move through the first few weeks of school.
For grades K-6, students will attend in-person learning five days a week in cohorted classrooms. Students and staff will follow all required safety protocols under Phase 4 of Michigan’s Return to School Roadmap, and everyone will be required to wear face coverings on school buses, inside school buildings, and outside during occasions where social distancing is not possible. Students will remain in their cohorts during lunch and recess. Students will be provided with frequent mask breaks outside and we will maximize opportunities for outdoor instruction, activities, and lunch.
For students in grades 7-12, we will begin the first four weeks of the school year with a hybrid in-person learning plan. This plan is designed to reduce the number of students by 50% in the school, during passing times, and in classrooms to allow for maximum social distancing. Students will be assigned to one of two groups, based upon a family’s last name. This will allow half of the students to attend school while the other half engage in remote learning at home. The first group of students will attend in-person learning all day Monday and Thursday. The second group of students will attend in-person learning all day on Tuesday and Friday. When students are not attending school in-person, they will be required to participate in remote learning and complete assignments at home. Both groups will engage in mandatory remote learning at home all day on Wednesday. Given that the first two weeks of the school year are four-day weeks, the schedule will be slightly different for these weeks and eliminates the all-student remote learning day in the middle of the week. This plan will allow district and health officials to closely monitor student and staff member health and the prevalence of the virus in our community. As we approach the end of the four-week period, we will see if conditions safely allow for an increase in the amount of time students spend at school.
Finally, we respect that parents and families all have unique needs and considerations. Therefore, families may forego the in-person plans described above and elect to enroll their child(ren) in a 100% remote learning option. Due to staffing constraints and continuity of learning, this option requires that students commit to this plan for the entire semester. Remote learning will be provided each day of the semester by Michigan certified teachers through regional partners such as Kent ISD, Michigan Virtual, and Apex Learning. Daily student participation, attendance, and academic work are required. More information on this option, including how and when to enroll, will be provided next week.
Attached to this letter is a one-page summary outlining the major elements of our return to learn plan. Additional details, required elements under the governor’s Executive Order 2020-142, and a weekly schedule for all secondary students for the first four weeks of the school year will be included in the full draft of our plan to be released on Monday, August 3. The Board of Education will consider formal approval of this plan on Thursday, August 6.
Thank you for your patience and support as we carefully crafted our return to learn plan to prioritize health and safety while maximizing student learning.
With deep appreciation,
Dan Behm Superintendent