Parent’s Playbook: St. Joseph, Michigan

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 6:30 PM EDT
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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WNDU) - In today’s Parent’s Playbook: A closer look at St. Joseph, Michigan schools and their Sept. 8 start date.

Tricia Sloma spoke with superintendent Dr. Thomas Bruce about their two-week phase-in plan.

Dr. Bruce: This was something that came out of our, our leadership team and a lot of conversations with local superintendents in the area. You know, you look at our schools’ size, we’re about 3,100 students. And come in and have all 3000 students come in the same day, at the same time, with all new processes or all new procedures, all new ways of doing things seemed like too much. Also speaking with our staff, our teachers, our families, there’s a lot of anxiety out there. So this phase in was a way to let people come into the building and see how things are going to work. Do it in small pieces and small numbers and kind of get a comfort level with seeing how they will be. For years before now, we always kind of knew what school would look like in the fall, and this year will be totally different. So, the idea is to let people see what that looks like. Have a comfort with that. But it also allows us to check our processes and procedures that we’ve been writing all summer to make sure they work.

Tricia: A lot of prep going into the school year, for sure. What are those learning options?

Dr. Bruce: So we have two different learning options in St. Joseph and districts across the country across the state, all do it differently, depending on what’s best for that community. What’s best for what they can actually do or handle as a as an organization. For us, we, we feel the need for our families to have a face to face model. A lot of times, 65% or better our families wanted to be face to face. That will be happening as we speak here in the next week or two, but at the same time, if we go to phase three, the governor moves back to phase three where there’s a hotspot or breakout and we go to what we call remote instruction for our students stay with their teacher, and they do that, that instruction over the internet and from home. The change in that for the spring, which was internet COVID emergency learning, was we will stick with a current curriculum or current pacing, we take attendance, we have assessments, formative assessment, grades are all the expectations are there as we normally would if we were in a classroom.

Tricia: So, you’re saying a huge improvement over what happened in the spring.

Dr. Bruce: Oh yes, yes. Remember, what happened in the spring is, we thought we were out for two weeks, and we thought we were out for three, and then it went on for months. And it also is how people were dealing with COVID at the time. There are a lot of different situations where you really didn’t want to have more on families and that was from a state level and we agreed as school systems that- knocking a kid’s grade down or not having a student there every single day when we don’t know the illness, how the illness is affecting families. That wasn’t the point at that time. We just stuck to the central standards, and that got us through, but now we’re ready to hit the road and run.

Tricia: Back to that face to face instruction. What happens if the teacher or student comes down with COVID? I understand you have very specific contact tracing plans.

Dr. Bruce: Correct. We have an email and a phone number with the Berrien County Health Department. And we have already plans set in place where we would contact them or the family to contact them, and then from there they have a stage to actually do the contact tracing. And they’ll go through the pieces such as who were you close to within six feet with a mask or without for over 15 minutes.

And through those, they’ll contact those other people. They would actually let us know who was in isolation, who is quarantined. They can’t tell us any more than that. But at least we’re working with them and it’s a very tight partnership. We meet with them at least once a week. Currently for the past number of weeks, making sure all these processes are in place. Looking forward to Sept. 8. We start slow to go fast and have an outstanding school year.

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