NEWBERRY, Mich. (WJMN) – Just like all other high schools across the state of Michigan on Wednesday, students in the Tahquamenon Area School District (TASD) started a three week period of virtual learning. The orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services were announced on Sunday.
On Monday the TASD school board voted to move the entire district to virtual learning through the end of the year. Superintendent Stacy Price said the switch was staggered for logistical reasons. Grades 9-12 started virtual learning on Wednesday. Students in grades 7 & 8 had the day off from learning and instead were picking up computer and WiFi hots pots from the school.
“So we’d kind of been holding our breath, because we put in an order around July for a couple of hundred computers. We were first told November. Then we were told in October, you’ll be lucky if you get them by the middle of December.” Price went on to say, “Luckily our order came through. I don’t know who was watching over us.” She also added, “So we were very fortunate in that regard, but a lot of leg work and lot of hours went in to make sure those computers were ready to rock and roll. My technology person has been absolutely fabulous.”
Price said the first day was largely a success.
“I’ve had some of the teachers come to me and say they’ve had great attendance. We’re requiring that per period, they log on for every hour that they had during the day. Not for a 55 minute period, but for a 30 minute period. So we’ve cut that time down because research has shown it’s not good for students to be on devices for as long as they are,” added Price.
Superintendent Price also explained how grades K-6 will finish out 2020 at home, starting on November 30th.
“That was a board decision to give our younger grade level parents time to figure out where those kiddos are going to go. So there was some consideration in that. So starting November 30th, all the way through January 1. We start after Christmas break on January 4th.”
Until now, the school has largely remained open. Price says they had their first case of COVID-19 at the beginning of October. It happened on a Friday, which they then went in to do some deep cleaning. It allowed more time for health officials to do extensive contact tracing and set up those who were in close contact to convert to a virtual setup. Since then, the school district has had 7 more cases. The latest one Price says was more extensive, taking a whole grade level out on quarantine. She said students were not mingling with other grade levels, which allowed them to keep the district open. Price says, while the board decided going virtual beyond the three week period is the safest measure, it isn’t an easy one.
“I can’t fathom a December not seeing our little kids faces in the elementary, seeing that Christmas glitter or excitement in their eyes. Or even talking to high school kids about their jobs or what they’re doing for Christmas. That’s going to be hard. It’s an emotional piece of this. But just to make sure everyone is safe, that’s our main concern. We want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and the holidays as we move forward. Just have grace and be patient with us, we’re doing the best we can. and if questions and problems pop up, which they will, make sure to contact us and we’ll deal with them the best that we can.
Right now, their need is for more hot spots. Price says she’s been talking with tech people around the region.
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