LAATSCH: Saline Schools To Offer 5-Day, In-Person Instruction to Vast Majority of Students

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Saline Area Schools officials are working on plans for a return to a five-day-a-week in-person school, starting Aug. 30. That information can't come fast enough for some parents.

Superintendent Steve Laatsch provided the Board of Education with a brief update at the July 13 meeting.

"What do we know right now is we're planning on five days a week, in-person instruction for the vast majority of our students," Laatsch said.

The district is still surveying the parents of more than 400 elementary-age students who are under the age of 12 and who finished this most recent year in virtual instruction. Laatsch said the district wants to determine which of these students might begin the year with remote learning until a vaccine is available for that age group.

Last year, all students started with remote learning. The district asked parents if they wanted their children to learn remotely or in person. In October, the "in-person" students went back to class twice a week. But as the fall/winter wave of the pandemic rose, in-person learning was canceled until the new year.

Laatsch and other superintendents in Washtenaw County are meeting this month to discuss protocols and safety procedures. At the end of this month, Laatsch will meet with Washtenaw County Health Department officials to review data around last year's stringent quarantine protocols. The administration will also discuss options with district nurse Karan Hervey.

Laatsch described why he was optimistic about the fall.

"Current optimism is centered around our successful spring school operations in spite of moving through the pandemic with high COVID transmission in Washtenaw County," Laatsch said. "We currently have a very low COVID transmission rate in Washtenaw County."

But there are concerns. Increased density in the buildings will reduce the ability for social distancing, Laatsch said. He also acknowledged there were students under 12 who were not vaccinated. 

"We are also watching the Delta variant," Laatsch said.

The district plans to present a more detailed plan at its Aug. 10 Board of Education.

But at least one parent feels it's asking parents for too much to wait until Aug. 10. Meghan Gunnerson addressed the board during public comment.

"I don't believe for an instant that these topics are not being discussed between you as well as all the employees of the district," Gunnerson said. "But what shameful is a lack of sharing of information with parents."

She said parents are losing their trust in the district and that the longer parents were left in the dark, the harder it would be to rebuild the trust. She said she understood that the district and parents had asked a lot of teachers but, she said, they've asked even more of kids.

"Our children survived last year. I want them to grow and to walk in the sun," Gunnerson said. "We talk about a number of topics, day-in and day-out, in this building - diversity, equity and inclusion. All of those things are really important. But you know what else is important? My kids being in school and actively engaged."

Gunnerson said appreciated knowing the district plans to offer five-day-a-week, in-person instruction, but she wanted to know what it will look like.

Several members of the audience applauded after her comments.

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