BEAVERTON – Beginning with the Michigan Safe Schools Roadmap released by Governor Whitmer in June, Michigan school staff have begun working to establish a concrete plan on a safe return to school. As Beaverton Schools prepare to reopen on August 31, staff are both eager and equipped to begin a historic year.
Many preparations have been made by both the schools staff as well as the administration staff at Beaverton. The greatest difference for the return to school will be the availability of online schooling. Providing schooling through an online format was a struggle for Beaverton Schools in the spring, however, they are now able to make it work for those who will be limiting contact by participating from a more remote location.
This is in part due to the remote wifi stations that were established around Beaverton by the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC) as part of their ProjectConnect to assist rural areas with free wifi as people learn and work from home during the pandemic. These wifi hotspot locations include the Tobacco Township Hall, Fruchey’s Market in Billings Township, and the Gladwin County Ice Carnival grounds at 4404 Lakeview Dr. in Beaverton.
Students who plan on distance learning will also have the option to check out a Chromebook laptop from the school.
While the schools are doing what they can to offer students the ability to learn from home, they are still urging kids and parents to allow for them to teach in a face-to-face environment. Changes that are being made to accommodate the students who come to school include the implementation of outside classrooms. Getting outside as much as possible is a recommendation according to Beaverton Schools Superintendent, Joe Passalacqua.
“Our football field, including the bleachers, and over by our softball/baseball we’ve set up tents to offer outdoor classrooms so that we can still offer our band and choir programs.”
According to Passalacqua, these programs need to be held outdoors due to the general nature of the class.
Beaverton Schools has had to make many difficult decisions depending on their budget. However, one area they needed to improve, for obvious reasons, was their custodial staff. The schools hired another day custodian as well as another night custodian. They have also purchased a large amount of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for both staff and students including two cloth face masks for each student at the start of the school year. Disposable masks, gloves, and even some face shields will also be part of the PPE the schools will provide when needed.
Superintendent Passalacqua believes that a very important part of school is the provided meals. Therefore, the schools will be making those meals available to the distance learning students by pick-up. Lunches will be held differently at school as well. K-6 students will be eating their lunches in their classrooms while distanced from one another. The students at the Junior/Senior School will be having a more traditional lunch period but not entirely the same. Tables are being set up in areas of the hallways to help spread students out from each other. There will also be picnic tables set up outside to allow for an even safer lunch with the weather permitting.
“The kids will be able to go outside and eat, we’ve just got to educate them and make sure they’re more mindful of picking up and cleaning their areas,” Passalacqua said.
The students will also get opportunities called “mask breaks” where they will be able to remove their masks and take a breather in a safe and secure environment.
“It will look different, but we’re going to try to keep it as traditional as possible,” Passalacqua said.
For parents and students who are concerned about how much different things are going to look on the first day back, Beaverton Schools have created a “day in the life of a student” YouTube video titled Beaverton Jr./Sr. High School Return to Learn. The video was shared by the Beaverton Schools Facebook page and is also available for viewing on the Beaverton Schools website at beavertonschools.net. This video shows Beaverton High School Principal, Mike Bassage guiding the viewer through an average school day while following the safety guidelines.
Passalacqua, along with the school staff, are confident in their ability to teach safely and in their students to follow the newly established rules. The only worry the staff has is the ability for other schools in the state to do the same, and for another state-wide shutdown to take effect. According to Passalacqua, the best the administration and the staff can do is to follow through with their plan, adapt when needed, and hope that everything will work out okay.
“We’re holding on to the little bit of hope that we have.”