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School's Closed - Now What?
Chris Arrington
Monday, April 06, 2020

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I would like to provide an update for parents and students regarding our staff’s next steps in the wake of the 2019-2020 school year being canceled.  Please consider the following bullet points as a “timeline of steps” our staff is beginning to take:

  • I, and other district staff, will attend two different legal seminars today.  This will be the first legal perspective provided since the cancellation of the school year.  Topics will range from pupil accounting rules, distance learning legislation, personnel laws, and the creation of a new state-mandated “Continuity Learning Plan”.  It makes sense to wait to receive the legal guidance before creating a “Learning Plan”.  

  • I will be setting up a distance learning meeting with teachers as early as tomorrow.  Our first order of business will be to complete the new state-mandated “Continuity Learning Plan” and get approval.  I am not certain if this will be completed tomorrow. Frankly, districts have never completed a plan of this nature, ever.  I want to make sure our teachers have a chance to voice opinions from a K-12 perspective to ensure we complete a plan that truly represents their vision and abilities.

  • I suspect our “CLP” might be more complicated than many other districts.  There are good reasons for this, and the reasons will likely be an asset in terms of providing distance learning in both the short and long term.  Here’s why: Right now, about 40% of our K-12 students have their school-issued Chromebook at home. Our plan is to take our current inventory of Chromebooks and distribute them to the remainder of our K-12 Students.  Pending Board approval, the district would take remaining funds from the bond and provide a technology refresh for the ‘20-’21 School Year. This means all K-12 students enrolled at Marion Public Schools next school year would have a brand-new Chromebook issued to them, and this device would stay at school.  This will save wear-and-tear on the new devices, while our current crop of devices can be deployed for home use without lugging them back and forth.

  • Because our “CLP” will soon have the luxury of every student having a viable device at home, this will likely open up excellent online opportunities for our students and teachers.  It will also bring more challenges. We realize a majority of our student homes lack quality internet. District Staff can’t fix this. There have been no promises from the state to remedy this situation for all, but there have been rumblings that make the possibility for greatly expanded high-speed internet access available even in remote areas.  I would like to think this is a matter of “If versus When,” but there is no definitive answer at this time. Marion Public Schools will be ahead of the curve when internet access is available for all.

  • Again, relative to the lack of internet access at many homes, our team will be figuring out ways to send home learning materials that do not require internet access.  Our plan will not be just “paper or internet.” It will be both.

  • To add another layer of thoughts and decisions our staff will have to consider and plan for, special education services for students with an IEP will need to be factored into individual student instruction.  Similar concerns exist for any student who might be getting individual help with reading and math. Providing individual accommodations over distance learning may end up being the greatest challenge for not only our instructional staff, but perhaps those in all other districts as well.

  • During the closure, our kitchen and transportation staff will be working.  Our dedicated food service staff will be working to make sure breakfast and lunches still get pumped out daily to the current sites.

  • The drivers have been serving the community since the first day of campus closure.  This will not only continue, but we can see the role of drivers expanding to delivering homework, chromebooks, and other forms of correspondence right to homes, if needed.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am certain our district could complete the paperwork necessary to satisfy the Michigan Department of Education’s requirements for a “CLP” in short order.  This is not our goal. Our goal is to get all the important information to consider before creating a plan. Considering all aspects of information will determine the constraints and opportunities within our “CLP.”  Likewise, deploying the chromebooks to student homes provides options for teachers and students, and it places the district in a good position should Michigan vastly increase internet access in the weeks and months to come.  Finally, our plan will try to address a lack of internet access at home, as well as planning for student individualization for all work; regardless of the form the work exists.

So far, our district has provided a great service to our kids and community.  There will definitely be significant challenges in terms of implementing our “Continuity Learning Plan.”  There will be missteps and lessons learned along the way. In my time in Marion, I have learned how effective and committed this staff is!  I am sure our learning plan will be of very high quality and ready soon. In the meantime, please know we are planning on delivering a high quality learning experience very soon!

We are lucky to have parents who support our efforts!

Stay Safe,

Chris Arrington