Dear Clarkston Community Schools Families,
This evening, the Board of Education approved our Fall 2020 Return to School plan and my recommendation to begin the school year on August 31 in a temporary district-wide distance learning contingency model for all students in Young Fives-Grade 12. This is not a long-term plan, but a flexible, robust replacement for in-person learning for a period of time. For that reason, we are not setting an end-date for transitioning back to school buildings. We will re-evaluate on a weekly basis and adjust our plans accordingly. This recommendation did not come lightly and was based on a number of complex factors:
- To date, we have received conflicting guidance and sporadic communication from the Oakland County Health Division about the protocols for safely reopening our schools. It is unacceptable to me that our district and others have been put in the position of making potentially life or death public health decisions with minimal local guidance.
- In the absence of that guidance, I have sought guidance from the MI Safe Schools Roadmap, the CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. I have reviewed virus spread rates in our community and collaborated with local medical professionals. It is clear to me that the public health situation in Clarkston is not stable, and that bringing 7,000 students and 1,000 staff members together each day is not a prudent path to public health stability.
- While we believe it is best for students to have face-to-face interactions with teachers and peers in school, we know that there are serious health risks for individuals with pre-existing health conditions, whether it is our staff and students or their immediate family members. Even for those who are healthy, the risk is not insignificant.
- In a survey we administered to all staff last week, 59% indicated that they did not feel physically safe returning to their job role in buildings. (View the Full Report)
- I am also looking at case studies of other school districts across the nation that are returning to in-person learning. The Fall 2020 return to school in our country is, essentially, a grand experiment.
With these factors weighing heavily on me, I could not in clear conscience recommend reopening school with face-to-face instruction in buildings. I realize that these changes are a lot to process, and I understand that many of you are eager to go "back to school" in the buildings. I want that too. I believe this plan puts us on the best path to return to face-to-face instruction.
As we have previously shared, our deadline for families to commit to Clarkston Virtual (our 100% online learning option) was Friday, August 7. With this new information, your choices are now: Clarkston Virtual or temporary distance learning with the expectation of returning to face-to-face learning in buildings.
We are extending the deadline to Monday, August 17 by noon. It had been our hope to be able to grant transfers into Clarkston Virtual as late as September 3, but it's become apparent that in order to guarantee the integrity of the program and to staff it with highly qualified, certified Clarkston Community Schools teacher mentors, we must stand by our new August 17 cut-off date.
We are asking you to choose between Clarkston Virtual (100% online learning at home) and temporary distance learning with the expectation of returning to face-to-face instruction in buildings at a later date. Should we return to face-to-face instruction mid-semester, all students in the distance learning model will move to the buildings to continue their studies. All Clarkston Virtual students would continue learning at home until the end of the semester or the end of the school year (depending on their preference.)
To help you make the best possible decision for your family, we are offering a virtual Learning Options Information Session this Wednesday, August 12 from 6pm-8pm. In order to address the questions that are of the broadest interest to our community, we are asking that all questions to be submitted prior to the live session, where a moderator will read submitted questions and members of our team will respond. Your question may not be read in the live session. Questions may be submitted using this form until Wednesday, August 12 at 4pm. Submit a question.
The session is limited to 1,000 audience members, but will be recorded and shared for anyone who is unable to attend.
In addition, we have also compiled some of the most common questions on our Fall 2020 website (including how distance learning differs from the "crisis schooling" we experienced in the Spring). Here you will also find sample distance learning schedules, and a comparison between Clarkston Virtual and our temporary distance learning model.
To the nearly 1,000 students, parents, and staff members who tuned into tonight's Board of Education meeting, thank you for your attendance and your thoughtful feedback. We look forward to hosting our virtual Learning Options Information Session this Wednesday from 6pm-8pm and hope you can join if you have lingering questions.
We know that our plans will not meet the expectations of all families, but you can trust that we will continue to make decisions with the best interest of our students, staff, and families in mind.
Dr. Shawn Ryan
Superintendent of Schools
About Clarkston Community Schools: Clarkston is a highly regarded school district with an enrollment of nearly 7,100 students. We have seven elementary schools (K-5), one middle school serving grades 6-7, one junior high for grades 8-9, and Clarkston High School, which serves students in grades 10-12. We also have an Early Childhood Center serving children ages 3-5, and an alternative high school/community education facility. Clarkston Community Schools students are well-prepared for a future that excites them, and believe that they can achieve their dreams. The mission of Clarkston Community Schools is to create a learning environment where students, staff, and families are challenged, healthy, engaged, safe, and supported.
Read more Clarkston Community Schools News at www.clarkston.k12.mi.us/news.
Media Contact: Mary Ellen Rowe, Marketing Director (248) 623-5460.