Harper Creek Community Schools are set to open on Wednesday August 26th.   This week, the school board approved the fall plan by a narrow 4-3 vote.   Superintendent Rob Ridgeway talked with WBCK’s Tim Collins about the plan on the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show.

“We’ve been working on it now for several months, and as with everything right now, it went through many, many changes based on things that we learned.  Almost daily we have things that change and recommendations that come down,” said Ridgeway.  “But we do have a plan, and in the plan parents have choices, and now that the plan has been finalized, they’re going to need to make their final choice.”

Ridgeway says flexibility is key. “We are going to make changes as they become necessary.  This is a really fluid situation, and we don’t want to be obtuse and say this is what we’re going to do no matter what.  If we see things are not working as well as we’d like, we’ll be more than willing to make changes.”

The formal decision includes the following modes of instruction:

Kindergarten-Grade 4 Face-to-Face Learning
5 days a week; all-day

Grades 5 – 12
Hybrid Model; two days in the classroom; 3 days distance learning

100% Virtual Option
Available for all students K- 12

Ridgeway said they gathered input from many sources, and one thing that they kept hearing was that parents wanted Harper Creek teachers to be used for virtual options, rather than an outside third party.

“We’ve surveyed parents three different times over the summer about face-to-face versus virtual learning, and at first it was about 80% face-to-face, and our most recent survey this week was 65% for face-to-face.”

The minimum social distancing for K-4 is going to be 6 feet.  Because of the way the school system is set up, it wasn’t practical to group the 5th and 6th graders in with the younger kids.   And Ridgeway says cost is also a consideration, and he estimates it’ll cost a million dollars to have kids in classrooms.  He says the younger kids will stay with the same small group, and that special classes like art, music, and Spanish will be in the classroom.   Physical education will be outside, and we’ll work very hard with our teachers to get the kids outside.

Ridgeway says the state isn't requiring masks to be worn in elementary class right now, but that could change.   He says they won’t be taking temperatures of kids at school.  “Currently the Calhoun County Health Department recommendations are for parents and students to screen at home.  But we are also going to train our staff to look for symptoms and if a child exhibits symptoms, we will have an isolation room where a school nurse can determine if they will have to be sent home.”

Ridgeway says 5th and 6th graders will have some movement between classrooms.   Grades 7-12 will have much more movement.  As kids move to another classroom, desks will have to be cleaned and sanitized.  Also per the Governor’s executive order, surfaces will be cleaned every four hours.  That includes desks, light switches, counters, and bathrooms.  To accomplish all of this, Ridgeway says they are adding 13 members to their custodial staff.

Regarding football and fall sports, Ridgeway says they are following Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) recommendations, and are allowing students to practice.   They are not able to compete at this time.

Ridgeway says they have enough computers for all of their students, and more are on the way.  He says they’re working hard with internet service providers to get internet into the last few homes in the district that have challenges getting connected.

“We are excited as an organization to have kids come back to school, even though it’s different and it’s changed.  We’re in this together. We want to do the best for kids.  We know that the emotional health of kids and their well-being is critically important and being around other kids and other people is something that we put a lot of value on.  So, I’m excited about the school year and I can’t wait to see kids back at school.”

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