Grand Blanc Schools keeps high school students remote until January

Superintendent Clarence Garner shares the success of the district’s hybrid learning model and why high school students will wait for the second semester before they return to their classrooms.
Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 5:05 PM EDT
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GRAND BLANC, Mich. (WJRT) - (10/29/2020) - The number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to rise as Michigan experiences a third surge of the virus.

Health experts say the majority of people testing positive in mid-Michigan are younger, which is why the death rate continues to trend low.

This, as many local school districts have students back in the classroom face-to-face.

But, Genesee County’s largest district is taking a slower approach.

“You just can’t let your guard down with this,” Grand Blanc Community Schools Superintendent Clarence Garner said. “We think, okay maybe we’ve made it through this phase or this whatever, we can get comfortable again. And I think this virus has taught all of us that it’s just not going to go away that easily.”

Working with health experts and keeping an open dialogue with teachers and staff, Superintendent Garner said Grand Blanc Community schools created a hybrid model for face-to-face learning.

It started Oct 5th, with the youngest students. The district is bringing back a different grade each week.

They’re in the building two days a week, remote the other three days.

Superintendent Garner said it’s going well. “We have not actually had to close down a classroom yet. So, and again I attribute a lot of that to our social distancing in the classroom, our students adhering to, you know, mask and hand washing, the cleaning from our custodial team as well and our teachers.”

But he explained, these health and safety measures would be difficult for their high school which has 2,000 students.

“As they are changing classes, serving you know lunch or eating in the cafeteria, lots of opportunities that could cause situations for us. So yes, all of those things had to be factored in,” Superintendent Garner said.

So the plan right now is not to bring those students back face-to-face until Jan 26 -- the start of the second semester.

“We want to hit those targets. But if we’re not trending in the right direction, or we don’t feel like we have the capacity to add more students then, you know, we will change those dates,” he said.

To help make sure that target is hit and face-to-face can continue, the Superintendent is asking families to remain aware of the virus after school and on the weekends.

“People want their children to have normal experiences; and what we’re finding, though, is those normal experiences that they want them to have, in some situations, are causing setbacks for us. So again, we’re just asking people to, you know, practice, things that we know are good things to help prevent the spread of this virus,” Superintendent Garner said.

ABC12 first reported on one of those setbacks last week. The district canceled the freshmen football team’s final game after multiple players were exposed to the virus at a homecoming party.

Grand Blanc Schools is also offering strictly remote learning through their Bobcat Virtual program.

Superintendent Garner said right now 40-percent of students are enrolled.

The date for middle schoolers to return to their classrooms has also been set. If all goes as planned, 6th through 8th graders will begin face-to-face learning on November 30th.

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