Experts Discuss What K-12 Education in Michigan Will Look Like This Fall

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Educators, administrators, students, and parents are embarking on a school year more complex than any before. COVID-19’s impact on the education sector is undeniable and will transform education into the future. To discuss plans and considerations for the upcoming year in K-12 education, Bridge hosted a conversation with Delsa Chapman, deputy superintended of the Lansing School District, and Steve Matthews, superintendent of schools for the Novi Community School District.

Chapman and Matthews shared the back-to-school plans for their respective districts, citing regional health data, adequate resources and infrastructure, and student needs as the main drivers of the decisions. Based on the concentration of COVID-19 cases, the Lansing school district opted to begin the school year in a 100% virtual format, phasing in in-person education for the second marking period. Novi on the other hand is offering two options: fully virtual and a hybrid approach, which brings smaller groups of students into the physical classroom for a few days during the week with remote learning for the rest of the week.

Through this critical decision process, the superintendents shared key insights and considerations for education during this time:

  • Community input and partnerships are essential. Both Chapman and Matthews actively involved community stakeholders, school boards, educators, parents, and local health departments to inform their return-to-school strategies. Surveys, community meetings, and ongoing calls for feedback from parents and students through the spring and summer also helped guide their decision making. Moving forward, Chapman and Matthews plan to uphold the state’s call for monthly assessments of their plans through presentations at education board meetings as a point of accountability. For instance, in light of concerns with students staying engaged for remote learning were addressed by creating blends of live, interactive instruction to keep students on track as well as self-paced components with designated time for students and parents to work directly with teachers for extra support.
  • Districts must provide support to every student. The success of these districts’ updated strategies is contingent on being attentive to the diverse needs of students. Of particular concern is accommodations for special needs students. Chapman mentioned close collaboration with the Michigan Department of Education to ensure that individualized education plans (IEP), which provide extra support and instruction, are executed. She’s also engaging additional staff who can provide in-home support to parents and the focused attention these students need to succeed. Additional support is also occurring to ensuring all students are equipped with the necessary technology to participate in remote learning activities. The Lansing and Novi districts are providing students in need with devices to complete their work and collaborating with internet service providers to create equitable connectivity – providing homes with hotspots or free or discounted internet service.
  • Curriculum needs to meet students where they are. The usual “brain drain” that occurs over the summer for most students has only been exacerbated in light of the drastic changes and real-time transitions through the spring. That considered, districts are focusing the first few weeks of learning on assessing where students are and identifying gaps in knowledge. Base curriculum will then be adjusted to help students get caught up. Special attention will also be given to reintroducing students to school, acclimating them to the new forms of learning, and building relationships with teachers.

Watch the full discussion.

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