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Virus symptoms could prompt kid quarantines

Schools finalizing Aug. 31 reopening plans

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Wilson Elementary School Principal Lisa Hilberg updates parents on some of the plans that may be implemented when schools reopen on Aug. 31. A series of meetings for parents will be held in the coming week.

ALPENA — When in-person classes resume for most of Northeast Michigan this fall, students who show symptoms of COVID-19 at school will be sent home, tested, and, if necessary, quarantined, an Alpena principal told parents on Monday.

Virtual instruction will be made available to children who are forced to stay home, Wilson Elementary School Principal Lisa Hilberg told parents at the first of several meetings this week at which Alpena Public Schools officials will gather parent feedback on the district’s reopening plans.

Those plans are beginning to come together, but aren’t finalized, officials said. The first day of school is slated for Aug. 31.

Most of Northeast Michigan is in Phase 4 of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus-related reopening plan, which allows different levels of economic activity based on how widespread the virus is in each of eight regions, the availability of hospital beds in each region, and more.

Alpena, Presque Isle, and Montmorency are in Phase 5, where in-person classes are allowed. Alcona County is in Phase 4, where only online education is allowed. Whitmer has required schools to plan for in-person lessons, remote lessons through the internet or mail, or a mix of online and remote learning.

At Wilson on Monday, Hilberg said the current plan is that students in kindergarten through fifth grade will not be required to wear masks unless they are on the bus or in common areas like hallways, bathrooms, or lunchrooms.

Hilberg said officials still are planning for how to deliver breakfast and lunch to kids in their classrooms.

Students finished last school year through online or correspondence courses after Whitmer closed schools in March to prevent the virus’ spread.

Because of that, Hilberg said, it will take awhile for teachers and staff to adequately determine where lessons should begin, so curriculum will be more individually based, at least to start. She said the top priority is to get students settled into school and familiar with the new procedures.

She said all kids will be shown the proper way to socially distance, wash their hands and use hand sanitizer — which will be available at many areas in the school — and cough into their elbow. Parents will be responsible for taking their children’s temperature each morning before they embark to school, she said.

“We aren’t going to just show them how to carry out these measures, but also explain what the intent behind it is,” Hilberg told parents at the school on Monday. “We intend to revisit that periodically throughout the year. We’ll also have signs placed around the building with reminders.”

State Rep. Sue Allor, R-Wolverine, who represents Northeast Michigan, said during a teleconference Monday it has been a challenge for schools to come up with reopening plans, but have done a good job. She said plans that may work at some schools may not work for others, and the Legislature is doing its best to support all of them.

“The districts have done a fantastic job in working with what they had during the unprecedented times,” Allor said. “But, when we look at the needs of our kids, the need for education is so very essential, but it differs from student to student and district to district. In Lansing, the Legislature is working to tackle these issues.”

Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District Superintendent Scott Reynolds said none of the area schools’ plans have been finalized and tweaks could be made on the fly as circumstances change.

“It goes without saying, but safety of students and staff is the highest priority,” he said. “As such, our local districts are at varied stages of collaboration to come up with a solid plan.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

Alpena Public Schools reopening meetings

Upcoming parent meetings on Alpena Public Schools’ plans for reopening in the fall:

∫ 4 and 5:30 p.m. tonight at Thunder Bay Junior High School

∫ 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Alpena High School

∫ 4 and 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Besser Elementary School

∫ 5:30 p.m. Aug. 5 at Hinks Elementary School

∫ 4 and 6 p.m. Aug. 6 at Ella White Elementary School

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Alpena, Presque Isle, and Montmorency are in Phase 5 and Alcona County is in Phase 4 of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s economic reopening plan. That information was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

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