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Alpena parents divided on school during pandemic

ALPENA — Alpena Public Schools administrators are already discussing what instruction will look like during the second semester.

Alpena Superintendent Dave Rabbideau at a school board meeting on Monday went over the results of a parent and staff survey assessing how comfortable parents were with sending their children to school during the coronavirus pandemic.

The survey, which wrapped up last week, before the latest coronavirus restrictions from the state, included the responses of 314 parents and 242 district employees.

The survey showed parents and employees divided over staying the course — with a mix of online and in-person classes — or transitioning to online-only instructions, with more parents urging the district to stay the course.

Alpena middle schoolers and high schoolers are currently learning online after several students and staffers were required to self-isolate after coronavirus exposure or infection. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration on Sunday required all high schoolers and college students to learn remotely for at least three weeks.

“I’m guessing, if we were to administer that (survey) today, we would have some changes in the results, but it’s that first step,” Rabbideau said.

Parent Cherith Prince told the board it’s challenging for one of her daughters to keep up with her online assignments and one of her daughters has special needs and requires the extra support school staff provides in person.

“I do appreciate and I would encourage you to … do everything you can to keep our children in school,” she said.

Rabbideau also read three parent letters submitted to the board, including a letter submitted by parent Angie Hague, who expressed concern about continuing to keep the elementary classrooms open while the middle and high school students transitioned to remote learning.

Hague said that, because of the increase in COVID-19 cases, she feels like it is no longer safe for students to attend classes in person. She asked if the board was considering remote instruction for all students.

Public health officials reported more than 100 Northeast Michiganders were confirmed infected over the weekend.

Trustee Ned Health said middle and high school students have moved to online-only learning for the safety of the students and the community.

“Seeing four kids in junior high and high school today go through the first day of remote learning, I want to applaud the teachers for taking the time to get on there and taking the time to reassure the kids,” he said. “I actually heard one teacher say, ‘You know, take a breath, relax, let’s just chill out for a bit.'”

A parent forum will be held at 7 p.m. today via the videoconferencing software Zoom for elementary, middle, and high school parents interested in transitioning their students to APS online for the second semester.

For more information, contact AHS Principal Tom Berriman at 989-358-5200.

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