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West Iron reports plans for rest of school year

IRON RIVER — On April 2, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released a 17-page executive order suspending in-person K-12 instruction for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
    The document gets into great detail about continuity of learning and COVID-19 response plans, district employees permitted in district buildings, state assessments, graduation of seniors, and special education.
    The implementation plans themselves largely fall on the local school districts themselves as the state did not want to dictate a “one-size-fits-all” approach across the widely varying districts in Michigan.
    Both West Iron County and Forest Park school districts were contacted last week to obtain reaction and an explanation of how the districts will move forward for the next few months (Forest Park did not respond in time for publication).
    WIC superintendent Chris Thomson started with his reaction to the governor’s decision to cancel all in-person “educational experiences.”
    “I do not have the depth of knowledge that the people in Lansing or Washington (D.C.) are playing with. I don’t have the modeling, the doctors, the personnel to tell me. So based off the knowledge that we get and the forecasting we see, I don’t know how you could come to any other decision than this.
    “And at least it gives us time to plan.”
    Thomson sent letters to both parents and guardians and to his staff detailing some of those plans.
    His letter to parents and guardians began by stating that “we are heartbroken by this necessity and we understand that this is being done in order to try to keep our communities safe and healthy.
    He said the Governor’s decision puts the expectation on each district that it creates “an educational package that works within the district, a package that includes education supplements that will be delivered via paper copies, email, apps or on the internet.
    For seniors in the district, Thomson said he’s in agreement with Gov. Whitmer that districts need to have senior ceremonies.
    “We know that many are not going to be able to take place, but we are holding on to our graduation ceremonies and events tied to our Memorial Day graduation as long as possible.”
    Thomson reiterated that this is all tentative as timelines change weekly.
    The SAT, PSAT and M-STEP exams for this spring have been cancelled. Current juniors will take the SAT and the Michigan WorkKeys exams in October 2020. Other current high school students will have the opportunity to take the PSAT in October as well.
    Thomson recommended that parents and guardians continue to check their emails for updates and to reach out to teaching and administrative staffs.
    “We realize this is not going to replace the experience your child would have had had they been in school as our personal interactions are an important part of human growth and learning,” Thomson wrote in the letter. “This is an extraordinary time and we will persevere. Please take care of yourself and your family, both mentally and physically. We will get through this.”
    In a separate letter, Thomson told the West Iron staff that days and hours have been waived during the initial school closing that went from March 16 through April 5.
    He said the district will begin its “hybrid” back of education the week after Easter on April 13.
    Thomson said the distance learning packages should embrace themes like focusing on essential learning for students, being flexible and ready to adapt, emphasizing relationships, and extending grace to all in these “unique and trying times.”
    Instructional models may be a blending of non-technology, face-to-face and virtual platforms.