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| 4 min read | by Lonnie Huhman, lhuhman@thesuntimesnews.com |

The Chelsea School District Board of Education met remotely on March 23 to decide a construction contract and get an update on the district’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Six of the seven school board members and CSD Superintendent Julie Helber were present along with some others through a Zoom video conferencing link.  

The school board voted to approve the recommendation by Clark Construction to award the 500 Building project bid to Phoenix Contractors, Inc. in the amount of $784,997. Helber said this was the low bid and is within the budgeted amount for this project.

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Helber said the 500 building construction, “is to create a space for our Engineering/Robotics CTE classes and our Health Science CTE classes.” 

She said they will also have space to expand CTE options in this building. 

“There are very specific needs for Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses and we are working to create this new space in Chelsea to give our students easier access,” Helber said.

The potential start date for this project is April 16.

School board treasurer Kristin van Reesema said she wondered about the start date and if it might need to be changed because of the COVID-19 situation. She said they will need to keep an eye on it.

In her update on the COVID-19 response, Helber said with the recent order by the governor the school district is working on a number of things.

She said they would continue to coordinate food availability for families in the community who need support as well as the Meals on Wheels program.

She said in her March 23 update on the districts website that food service staff, senior center staff and volunteers have been integral in providing meals to seniors.

Helber said custodial and operations staff have cleaned the buildings and prepared them for a longer closure.

“We will continue to monitor the buildings from an operational standpoint. With the Governor’s recent Executive Order, we will be shutting down our buildings completely,” Helber said in her update. “We will continue to provide food to our Meals on Wheels family and to our families in need, but will limit the number of volunteers it takes for this essential task. Other than that, all buildings will be closed until at least April 13.”

She said the district has received guidance from the Michigan Department of Education and the district’s attorney’s office regarding online options and virtual instruction.

The main takeaway, she said, is that they need to be sure that they are providing equitable access to the opportunities they are providing for all students. Further, she said they must take into consideration the specific learning needs the school population has with respect to accessing learning.

The district is also working to provide iPad technology to all of its elementary students. Helber said they would like to get the iPads in the hands of its students to help push out additional enrichment activities for the students.

“While the Stay at Home order extends school closures until at least April 13th, educators supporting public and private K-12 schools for the purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing other essential functions, including food services, are considered essential workforce,” Helber said. “Under these guidelines, we are able to organize this iPad pick-up process even though the Stay at Home order has been issued.”

Helber said they understand, “that you may be worried about your child’s learning progression at this time and I want to assure you that our staff continue to plan for extended learning opportunities for students.”

“We continue to add resources to our webpage in the Family Resources tab. We are working with the other school districts in the county to collaborate on a plan that is equitable and accessible for all students. Our target for pushing out additional learning opportunities is April 6,” Helber said. “Please know that this takes an amazing effort from our staff and colleagues across the county; all coordinated remotely. In addition, the district has ordered Verizon hotspots with the intent to place these in areas of our community with limited to no broadband access. We are currently waiting for these to arrive.”

This is just some of the update information from Helber and CSD. There are more details and information at the CSD website as well as further updates. School staff can also be contacted through email.

Go to https://www.chelsea.k12.mi.us/updates.

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