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AMA ESD prepping return plan for Pied Piper students

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Scott Reynolds, superintendent of the Alpena Montmorency Alcona ESD, checks on a renovation project Thursday at Pied Piper School. The building is undergoing a renovation this summer, as school officials are forming plans on how to return to school safely.

ALPENA — Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District administrators are working to develop a plan to protect some of the region’s most vulnerable students when they return to Pied Piper School on August 31.

AMA ESD Superintendent Scott Reynolds said return to school plans are in the early stages of development and that administrators are working with officials from District Health Department No. 4, other intermediate school districts, and public school officials in the region.

The state is requiring schools to develop plans to keep students safe in the classroom for in-person learning, remote learning, or a blend of the two that would correspond to the severity of coronavirus activity in Michigan’s designated regions.

Alpena and Montmorency counties are in Region 6, which includes most of Northern Lower Michigan, while Alcona County is in Region 4, which includes Saginaw. As of July 12, Region 6 is currently at a phase 4, which means schools can open, but with more stringent protocols, and Region 4 is in phase 3, which means schools cannot open for instruction and would need to implement remote learning, according to the state’s mistartmap.info.

Reynolds said not only are Pied Piper students among some of the most vulnerable, they are also among the most medically fragile students in the region, even before the pandemic.

Pied Piper serves students with moderate to severe cognitive impairments, autism, and adaptive impairments in Alpena, Montmorency and Alcona counties. In order to keep these students safe, Reynolds said administrators are evaluating existing practices and looking how they align with state requirements.

Administrators are also considering the challenges they may encounter while trying to keep their students safe. Reynolds said they have to think about things like pre-existing medical conditions, how they’re going to protect students who lack the ability to wear a mask, and explore what other options exist.

“We recognize that with many of our students at Pied Piper, social distancing is not a concept that is familiar to them, nor is it necessarily therapeutic to them,” he said, noting they are working with DHD No. 4 and other agencies to come up with alternate strategies to keep them safe.

He said they are also recognizing there are some exceptions to the use of face masks and other personal protective equipment for those who cannot put a mask on or off or who have a medical condition.

“It’s going to be important for us to communicate that information to the parents so they can follow through as necessary with their own medical providers and then also make informed decisions as far as what they deem as the best option for their student,” he said. “Then we’ll use that information to further determine what instruction will look like.”

On Wednesday, Reynolds met with officials from DHD No. 4, Cheboygan-Otsego-Presque Isle Educational Service District, and local school districts. He said the educational service district’s intention is to continue planning for face to face instruction, although plans for remote learning are also being developed.

“We’re excited about starting the year, but doing it properly, and keeping safety at the forefront,” he said.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

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