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Schools still waiting on state guidance amid virus shutdown

ALPENA — Alpena Public Schools is still looking for guidance from the state on how students will finish this school year as the state-mandated closure over coronavirus fears was extended until at least April 13.

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in Northeast Michigan. Statewide, more than 1,300 people have been infected and 15 people have died.

Superintendent John VanWagoner said the district has yet to receive any guidance on how the closure would be factored into the state’s new third-grade reading law, which requires students to repeat third grade if they don’t meet certain reading benchmarks.

That law is based on spring standardized testing, which VanWagoner said the state has canceled this year.

VanWagoner said district officials want to turn their interest now to online education, but officials are awaiting more guidance from the governor’s office to determine how the school could offer classwork to kids.

District officials also have no idea how staff, especially hourly employees, will be paid after spring break, VanWagoner said.

“Right now, we’re continuing with the status quo in school, and we’re going to wait for guidance from the state and our legal counsel,” he said. “We’re taking it day by day.”

The Board of Education meeting was held via teleconference on Monday to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. On March 18, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order allowing public bodies to meet electronically until April 15.

In other business

The Alpena Public Schools Board of Education on Monday also:

∫ approved Aug. 31 as the first day of school for the 2020-21 school year

∫ awarded a $361,110 contract to Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency for a program to help students at risk of academic failure

∫ extended each administrator’s contract through the 2021-2022 school year, with no changes in pay

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