Saline Schools To Start Reopening This Month

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Saline Area Schools will start going back to mostly in person learning, despite objects and concerns of some students. Interim Superintendent reasoned with the Board of Education, Tuesday evening, that students up to fifth grade will be able to start going back to the district’s brick and mortar buildings starting March 15, and that students at Heritage will be able to go back on April 5, as well as middle and high school students.

“I feel confident,” Laatsch told the Sun Times News, in an interview by phone on Wednesday. “Based on our data, which we have been following all year, I feel confident that we’re going to do well in this model.”

Some of the students who spoke at the public comment sections of the March 9 meeting pointed out that the numbers are still high in Washtenaw County. The mental health of students was brought up as a concern during the meeting, but at least one Saline high schooler said that while he is suffering negative mental health effects because of the pandemic, another layer of anxiety would come from the possibility of accidentally affecting someone inside or outside of school because of the new learning environment.

Parents will be able to choose to keep their children in the hybrid model, according to the district. Laatsch said that school principals will start reaching out to parents to ask them what model they would prefer their children take to finish out the year starting next week.

A number of students spoke out in opposition to reopening at the March 9 Board of Education meeting however, A high school senior told the Board that students want to go back to the regular sports seasons, and to see prom. But the possibility of seeing that diminishes, the student argued, if there is a spike in Covid numbers because of a premature opening.

Another high schooler asked “What’s the rush?” in opening now. That high schooler argued that it would be better to open in the fall, which is likely after everyone who was willing to get the vaccine would have one.

“I am willing to compromise,” one sophomore told the board. She said it might be a good idea to allow elementary kids students in, but not older students.

The current Washtenaw County Covid numbers are about the same as they were last autumn. The difference this time, Laatsch said, is that the numbers are going in the opposite direction.

Of the 633 Coronaviruses cases that Washtenaw County confirmed between February 18 and March 4, 7 percent included people between the ages of 10 and 17, while 3 percent were younger than 10 years old. The expected age range of most teachers – between 30 and 64 years old – was 36 percent, according to the county.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a third vaccine supplier and according to the White House, about a tenth of the American population is vaccinated. The fact that numbers are going down, and that teachers in particular are either vaccinated or will be by April 3, led Laatsch and his team to determine this is the right time to reopen to four days per week.

"I am very aware of the complexities and time that was involved in getting to this decision on how to complete our academic year. There are a myriad of details to consider to make this work operationally, and there are also student interests, family requests, and staff needs to contemplate. I fully support this plan to return to the buildings for four days, reserving the asynchronous Friday,” School Board President Jennifer Steben told the Sun Times News, Wednesday morning. “I am also very proud of the fact that Saline has always had choice for families this year and reinforces that choice by asking them their preferred model of learning before each trimester. This is the right direction for learning, and for social emotional health."

Laatsch said that some of school buildings will only allow three feet of spacing between students in certain classrooms, but students will be able to space out at six feet during lunch, the most dangerous part of the school day. Laatsch reasoned that this could be done by having some of the students eat outside.

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