Upper Peninsula schools are ready to kick off the 2021/22 school year

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – School has started or is starting soon for students across the Upper Peninsula, this year several schools still have some COVID-19 safety measures in place.

Marquette Area Public Schools Interim Superintendent, Zack Sedgwick says they will continue with doing their best to social distance and cohort students.

“When you look at our preparedness and our response plan there is much that’s the same, we have a lot of the same protocols in place, we’re doing our best to social distance and cohort, we’re using a variety of techniques to disinfect, keep things as clean as possible,” said Sedgwick. “The biggest change this year is that at this point, masks are strongly recommended for all students and staff and families.”

Superintendent Howard Parmentier of Manistique Area Schools, says masks in their district are also not required.

“Since LMAS, I believe they are strongly recommending, as I have told my board you know we are not medical here at the school if LMAS believed we needed to be wearing them they would put out that mandate and at that point we would move to masks in schools,” said Parmentier.

Parmentier says they will still be using other strategies that were used last year in response to COVID-19.

“We are going to be doing our best to do the distancing, obviously with our buildings being older we are limited in doing some of that but we are still going to be adding additional lunches, and we’re still going to be doing that as we did last year,” said Parmentier.

Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw Public Schools will also be continuing with cleaning efforts and also made improvements to their HVAC system according to Superintendent Chris Davidson.

“From last year what will remain in place is an increase in cleaning throughout the building and throughout our campus during the course of the school day and in-between days, spacing students where we can – it’s going to be a little more challenging this year with more students coming back to a face-to-face learning environment but just encouraging the staff in every aspect that we do to put some safe distancing between kids where possible, paying attention to close contacts and notifying parents when their child was in close contact to a positive case in the district, we’ll continue to work with the Western U.P. Health Department throughout all things COVID related,” said Davidson “And then in addition to that one of the bigger additions we’ve made to our strategies was some improvements to our HVAC system and getting an air purification system installed throughout our campus to help I guess wipe out or eliminate viruses, bacteria, odors, you name it, and just increase the air quality along with pulling in more fresh air from outside.”

Davidson says that masks will be optional for both staff and students, they met with the Western U.P. Health Department biweekly over the summer in preparation for this year.

“This year it was you know we had parents show up to board meetings offering their suggestions, their input, what they would like to see, for the school year, we’ve received feedback via email through last year all through summer in preparation for this year,” said Davidson. “But more-so this year was a decision of the board, myself and our administrative team, in conjunction with the health department I know the health department isn’t in total agreement with our initial plan right now but I do appreciate their time, they were extremely valuable throughout the summer, we met every other week this summer and kept the conversation going, looking at things we can do to just create a safe healthy environment for our students.”

Sedgwick says that they had a back-to-school committee that met over the summer to discuss COVID-19 response and preparedness for MAPS.

“My predecessor, Mr. Saunders, and I were co-chairs of that back-to-school committee, we had roughly 25 people that were on the committee, a combination of staff and parents, local professionals, two doctors on the committee, we deliberated, we took some polls to see where folks were at as far as where they felt we should go, how we should write that COVID preparedness and response plan, and then it was presented based on that committee’s response plan put to the board on August 11 at which point in time it was approved,” said Sedgwick.

All superintendents said their priority is providing a safe learning environment for students this year.

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