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South Lyon Schools Settles On Compromise After Superintendent Advises For District-Wide Virtual Learning

CBS Detroit - The South Lyon Community School District agreed to a compromise on Monday after Governor Gretchen Whitmer unveiled a three-week lockdown for the state and South Lyon Superintendant Steve Archibald advised that the entire school district should go to virtual learning after spikes in COVID-19 in the South Lyon area community.

Jennifer Urtel, a South Lyon School Board Trustee told Hometown Life K-8 students will remain in face-to-face learning while high school students will learn remotely for at least three weeks in accordance with Governor Whitmer's recent closures. Urtel is concerned with people traveling and getting together with others for Thanksgiving and the holidays, that there may be a spike in COVID-19 cases. Even superintendent Archibald has said in the past while cases in the district are low, with cases in the community on the rise, he has been advocating for district-wide virtual learning.

With the school board's decision, secondary students will be learning remotely as-early-as by the end of Tuesday. Elementary students will remain in classes until the Thanksgiving break. Going to online learning until December 7, until Christmas break starts on December 21. Hometown Life reports After New Years', students will be learning online before returning back to school on January 11, 2021.

Urtel Told Hometown Life, "If people do heavy partying and New Year's Eve gatherings, (that's another) week of buffer," she continued, "That gives a week to get your illness, have symptoms, fever and cough and hopefully if you're sick, you don't come back. It's a week buffer time to let COVID run through your system."

Superintendent Archibald was advocating for a complete online virtual learning format after more than two-dozen COVID-19 cases were in the South Lyon District which resulted in quarantine procedures that closed facilities, and put stress on staff to maintain instructional delivery. Urtel says even with her own children who are in high school, the principal is running from class to class because quarantined teachers and a lack of substitute teachers have made staffing difficult. Archibald has listened to many on each side of the issue, including one person who suggested he step in front of a train.

MORE FROM CBS DETROIT: Whitmer Says She Has Authority To Order New Stay-Home Order In Michigan

"Going remote (at the high school) is because we are struggling significantly to put adult bodies in rooms to keep an eye on the kids," she said to Hometown Life. "In multiple classes, my kids were in, there was no adult in the room." Closing the high school she feels is a better way to make more substitute teachers available for the elementary schools.

At the meeting, comments were mixed both in favor and against the Superintendent's recommendations. Archibald admitted he wants kids in school as that is where do their best academically and socially. Archibald also listed a series of issues the district is facing.

  • 10 classrooms are moving fully to online learning since last month.
  • 4 classrooms are already meeting remotely along with an entire elementary school
  • A football and volleyball team is no longer competing due to COVID-19
  • 60 staff and 200 students were placed in quarantined last weekend
  • A reported increase in 5 more school-associated cases of COVID-19 adding to 90 more individuals placed in quarantine.

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These numbers have led to having non-teaching staff to step in and supervise kids at almost every level. School nurses are charged with maintaining contact tracing. On top of that Archibald says some substitutes will not work under COVID-19, waiting for the numbers of cases to go down. As of Monday, the district has 10 teaching positions unfilled along with five support staff positions. Open positions he says have varied from 10 to 25 positions across the district over the last three weeks.

Trustee Daniel Schwegler said to Hometown Life, "We need to look at other solutions... For me personally, I think there is a significantly large population of elementary students who struggle to learn remotely, they just don't have the tools necessary. It's a better approach to fully support the staff to feel safe to deliver education in-person." He feels the governor's three-week shutdown should reduce COVID-19 cases. The board conceded that for the temporary shutdown to be effective, families should not gather for Thanksgiving.

At the Monday night meeting, Urtel pleaded for families to stay in and have a quiet Thanksgiving at home. Using Zoom to meet with relatives virtually. The South Lyon School Board plans on meeting on December 7 and December 14 to re-evaluate plans as necessary.

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© 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Information from Hometown Life contributed to this report.

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