Saline students return to class after nearly 200 days of distance learning
SALINE, MI – Scot Graden has noticed a difference in the willingness of students to return to class this week for the first time in 198 days.
The absence appears to have made the hearts of the students more attached to the school in person, said Graden, director of schools in the Saline region.
“It’s interesting, the traditional student perspective is, ‘I don’t want to go back to school,’” Graden said on Wednesday, September 30. “It’s quite the opposite (this year), even in high school. I think they appreciate the opportunity to come now, differently than they did.
Saline students returned to class for the first time on Monday in a blended learning format that welcomes them in alternating “blue” and “yellow” groups, Monday through Thursday, with Friday dedicated to distance learning. throughout the district.
After two weeks of this format, Graden said the district’s back-to-school committee will meet to determine if Saline is ready to attend school in person five days a week on October 12, based on statistics. local health and if there are any. epidemics or cases of COVID-19 in the district. Distance learning will continue for anyone who wants it.
About 30% of Saline students stay in a distance learning setting, said Graden, representing about 1,200 of the more than 5,100 students in the district.
A number of families have chosen to remain in a distance learning environment for at least the first term of school, and district administrators are working to ensure that these students are fully integrated into the experience. school in person via Zoom and other creative measures, Graden mentioned.
Starting in grade seven, all virtual students can participate via video during in-person instruction, said Laura Washington, principal of Saline Middle School. Students can even participate in small group sessions booked inside the classroom with their virtual classmates, she said.
“They’re thrilled to be in class and to have some sort of normalcy for the kids here,” said Washington, who was previously principal of Heritage Elementary School. “For the kids at home, I think they still feel like they’re part of their class, which was really important to us.
Inside school buildings, hallways are lined with directional signs and social distancing reminders. Plexiglass screens have been installed in the offices, while the cafeteria is typically limited to three students at a table.
Desks and workstations are disinfected every class or every four hours, depending on the building, Graden said. After disinfecting the desks, teachers assigned seats to ensure that students in the next class sit at different desks to allow for proper disinfection.
At Pleasant Ridge Elementary School, mask breaks are built into the day, allowing students to hang out and chat without masks while socially distancing themselves.
Teachers typically try to take three to four mask breaks a day, again referring to the “normality” that administrators seek for students at the start of the year, said first-year principal Kenyatta Hughes.
“An opportunity to take that mask off and be able to see some of that self-expression in their classmates is a great opportunity,” said Hughes.
Pleasant Ridge tries to create good mask habits for students by encouraging them to only engage with students in a play area or recess if they are wearing a mask, Hughes said.
Saline has also set up tents for the outside congregation. Pleasant Ridge exterior doors provide students with access to the outdoors without having to move around the building, while also allowing student drop-off and pickup for parents.
Lunch breaks are still ongoing inside the cafeteria, Graden said, estimating that around 200 students are in the space for each of the three lunches spread throughout the afternoon.
Specialty classes like music and band are also organized for students in person and remotely through the use of Zoom technology. In middle school, a Meeting Owl camera captures 360-degree video and audio, following the teacher into the classroom so students who are learning at home can take interactive lessons with their classmates in person.
“It creates a really cool environment for the students at home and it allows us to communicate with them,” said group teacher Ben Reed.