The Tahquamenon Area Schools Board convened virtually at 6:00 Monday evening, April 6. Superintendent Stacy Price was in the school building, while the board members joined in electronically from their homes or wherever they had good internet reception. After a few connectivity issues resolved in the first minutes, the meeting proceeded quite smoothly.
Price opened the meeting with an understatement. “A lot has happened since March 13.” She referred regularly to that time “prior to March 13.” She emphasized that Governor Whitmer’s executive order ended “face-to-face” instruction. She updated the board on measures the district is taking to make sure education of students continues. “Things are going to happen virtually, by mail and by phone.”
Multiple methods are employed to meet the goal (and state requirement) of educating students during the enforced curtailment of face-to-face instruction. Google Classroom is an online platform that the district has used and will be expanded. 312 surveys were returned of those sent to the 562 students to determine levels of internet connectivity and individual needs for computers (to be provided.) “Connectivity in our district is not very good.” It seems fewer than half of students are equipped for on-line learning. Prepared packets (paper and pencil) have gone out, as well as USB drives containing lessons. Teachers and administrators are creating (inventing) means to collect, correct, respond, move on etc.
The state mandates that all students be given the opportunity to succeed. The Covid-19 situation can not be a barrier to student progress and success.
Trustee Jon Brown asked, “Are we going to tailor outreach to specific families?”
Price assured him, “We’ll have different options, on-line, off-line. We’ll work it out.”
Price met Monday with grades 7-12 staff and discussed grading, among other things. There will not be third and fourth quarter grades issued, only a single semester grade in each subject. A pass/fail or credit/no credit grading system is being considered. Under this format, credit towards graduation would be awarded, but grade-point averages would not be affected. Most districts in the area are leaning towards such a system, although official board approval is required at a future meeting.
Concerns were raised about college admissions and scholarships. Trustee Stuart McTiver pointed out that this is a nationwide issue and students and districts everywhere face the same issues. Price added that students currently in grades 9-12 will be affected.
Price noted that the custodial staff has been “deep cleaning” classrooms, hallways, and wherever people gather. She thanked and praised the kitchen staff for preparing and delivering 4300 meals per week to sites at the school, 4 Mile Corner, Hulbert, Lakefield, Germfask and Curtis. Check with the school for (once per week) delivery times.
Currently, there are no specific plans for a graduation ceremony. “Some of our questions don’t have answers right now,” Price lamented, though there is hope for a summer ceremony when restrictions are lifted. There may be a special early ceremony recognizing those seniors bound for military service.
Trustee Bruce Klusmeyer reminded everybody that there are still contract negotiations to deal with. And a budget to draft. And a bond issue. Brian Rahilly complimented Price on regular updates to the board.
Price said the educational staff is planning the “catch-up” transition when things return to some more traditional situations in the fall.
Staff meetings, governmental meetings, and board meetings are occurring regularly as individuals become adjusted to the virtual conference format. Many questions were answered simply, “Guidance will be coming from Lansing. . .There is so much unknown.” Still, education is continuing, with new challenges and responsibilities for all. The board will meet again April 20.