MUSKEGON, Mich. — Governor Whitmer has announced the creation of her COVID-19 Task Force on Education, which provides her recommendations on when to open public schools throughout Michigan.
That includes three superintendents from Muskegon County who are now serving on the work groups that will advise the Governor’s Task Force on a plan to get kids back in school.
It's a very difficult task, planning for the 2020-2021 school year during a pandemic; tougher still when there's more than one scenario that could play out.
"It's not going to be an easy task over the summer to prepare us for the fall to develop three learning models and be prepared to implement any one of those three, depending on what the first day of school is going to look like," said Tom Livezey, superintendent of Oakridge Public Schools.
Here are the three possible learning models:
-All kids are back in school this fall
-The kids spend some time at school and some time remote learning
-Students will spend the entire school year learning from home.
Simple right? It's why state superintendent Dr. Michael Rice put together three work groups of 30 educators each who will give their ideas to the governor.
"That's really what this group is about is to identify the issues, the challenges, the barriers that schools experienced the spring, and then come forward with some solutions, recommendations and ideas, so that going into the fall our kids are getting the best education possible,“ Livezey said.
Rane Garcia from Muskegon Heights and John Severson from Muskegon Area ISD are also part of the group.
Their list of concerns for the fall probably match those of most parents.
"We don't have enough room to distance, all of our students in the space that we have so that's where we would have to get creative because parents have the ultimate authority for their children, so how can we provide options that make parents comfortable as well?" Garcia said.
"Funding is going to be a big concern," said John Severson, superintendent of Muskegon Area ISD.
"Our budget as a state has been hurt and if we have to do more with less this is going to be very difficult and we have to have the very best environments for our kids to be safe," he said.
Despite the challenges, there's certainly been some good to come from the past few months of remote learning.
"Regardless of what the conditions are there some great aspects to technology that we've learned that will help move our students forward in the future, whether it be able to return fully or partially or not at all,“ Garcia said.
The groups have been meeting, weekly, since last month in hopes that they provide enough information to the task force to formulate a plan or plans that will work.
"It will look different by the size of the district where it's located, but that guidance is so critical, just on the health end. and i think that will also give us a message across the state, and parents will feel that we're on the same page," Severson said.