Dearborn opts to start school year ONLINE, with optional in-school learning labs for more support

The Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education agreed Monday night for the district to start the school year online for all students.

Students from preschool through high school will take classes online at least until the first week of October. The board will reevaluate conditions later in September to see if it is possible for some or all students to begin returning to their classrooms.

“The decision to start online is not for the entire school year, or even for the entire semester,” Superintendent Glenn Maleyko said. “Our hope continues to be to return most students to in-school learning when we feel we can ensure reasonable safety.  We know most students learn better in a classroom.”

Online learning for the fall will be more structured than what students and parents saw in the spring after the emergency school closures due to COVID-19.  Students will be expected to attend live virtual classes with their teacher every school day and attendance will be counted.  Work will be graded on a more traditional scale, unlike the standards used in the spring. Schools will be contacting students with the teacher assignments and more information before class begins Aug. 31.  Parents and students should watch their emails because more  schools may opt to communicate electronically this year instead of mailing back-to-school packets.

While learning is online, the district will also provide in-school learning labs for students. These small groups will offer additional in-person assistance to students for academic and social-emotional issues. Each of the district’s 36 schools will create its own schedule for learning labs.  Most often teachers will recommend students they feel will benefit from the learning lab, but parents and students will also be able to request additional help.

Starting school online was the top recommendation from the district’s school reopening committee.  More than 80 people served on the committee that looked at hundreds of logistical details regarding returning students to school. The committee’s second and third recommendations both involved allowing students to return with blended learning where half the students would be in the building on one day and half learning from home.  The committee’s second choice recommendation was for just elementary students in blended learning while secondary students stayed online, and the third recommendation had all students in a blended learning system.For parents who do not want their student returning to in-building learning this year, or at least this semester, the district has created the Virtual Learning Program.  This online only program is available for district students, but parents must register their child. Families can learn more at vlp.dearbornschools.org.  Students who sign up for the program will still be taught by Dearborn Public School staff using the district’s curriculum.  Families are asked to commit to the program for at least a semester, preferably the entire year.

New this fall, all Dearborn Public School teachers and students will be using Schoology, including lessons taught via Zoom.  Schoology will provide a central hub for students to connect to all their teachers and find and submit all their lessons and assignments.  The secure platform also gives teachers more control over their virtual classroom, including how students interact during live lessons.

The decision to start school online does not directly impact high school athletics.  Those seasons officially start this week; however teams will only be allowed to compete as MHSAA deems it is safe to do so.  Those decisions are made by sport depending on how well athletes can social distance and other factors.  Read more at the MHSAA website.  Athletes will continue to fill out a brief daily health form, including a temperature check, before participating each day.

Like everything else since March, all in-person activities are subject to change as COVID-19 conditions evolve and pending any new requirements from the Governor or state legislature.

“While we are disappointed to be starting schools online this fall, we know that we need to put the safety of our students and staff first.  Even with the extensive precautions planned by the reopening committee, we feel like online learning is the best option for starting school,” Superintendent Maleyko said.

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