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Local schools transition to remote learning ahead of new state directive

ALPENA — Alpena Public Schools students who attend the junior high and high schools will transition to remote learning starting today, where students will be attending classes remotely through Dec. 8.

Hillman Community Schools officials announced on Saturday the district would be moving to virtual learning today and Rogers City Area Schools is closed today while local public health officials conduct contact tracing related to two positive cases of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, colleges and all remaining high schools will end in-person classes and proceed with remote learning, according to a new directive from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the state health department’s directive, in person K-8 schooling may continue if it can be done with strong mitigation, including mask requirements, based on discussion between local health and school officials.

APS Superintendent Dave Rabbideau said the directive from the state health department will not change much for APS students, staff, and families, other than the length of time students will be learning remotely.

District officials had planned to have junior high and high school students return on Nov. 30, but Rabbideau said the state health department’s order means remote learning will be extended through Dec. 8.

“We need to work together to stay safe and healthy and I think it’s just important to follow the guidelines and hopefully we can flatten this curve again,” he said.

APS officials on Friday announced the junior high and high school students would transition to remote learning because of staffing shortages. Those schools have previously been teaching students through a mix of online and in-person classes.

During the transition to remote learning, TBJH and AHS students are expected to continue their learning. They are expected to attend their class online, complete and submit their assignments, check their email and online learning platform daily, and respond to their advisory teachers when contacted, according to the APS website. Student class schedules are posted on the APS website.

Rabbideau said most TBJHS and AHS students should have taken their Chromebook laptops home with them on Friday. He said any students who didn’t take their laptops home should contact their principal or teachers, who will communicate how students can obtain their devices.

Hillman Community Schools Superintendent Carl Seiter on Saturday notified parents in a Facebook post the district would be moving to virtual learning until Nov. 30, when he expects students to return to their classrooms.

Seiter said in the post he was informed of a positive case at the elementary school and that DHD No. 4 was treating a junior high school student as a positive case. He said there were also at least five staff members out because of potential exposures or illness.

Seiter said he made the decision because the “anticipated implications for students and staff” as contact tracing is being completed.

“It is vital that parents keep their students away from others and mask up during this isolation period,” he said in the post. ” If we want this to stop and return without issues, we must work to eliminate our exposure.”

Rogers City Area Schools will be closed today to conduct contact tracing after district officials were notified of a second positive COVID-19 case on Sunday, according to the district’s Facebook page.

Both of the confirmed positive cases have been in the high school and middle school building. Parents will be contacted if their child has been affected.

Schools in Northeast Michigan have had their day to day routines interrupted at least 23 times because of COVID-19 since the school year began.

A student or staff member at Pied Piper School had tested positive for COVID-19 and was self-isolating, the Alpena Montmorency Alcona Educational Service District said last week. District officials were confident no one was exposed to the individual and the school remains open.

Alpena Community College last week also reported four new COVID-19 infections, including two students, one employee, and one other employee. Those individuals were self-isolating.

Alpena Public Schools has reported a total of eight probable cases of and three confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the school year began, with Sanborn Elementary, Ella White, Lincoln, TBJHS, and AHS among the schools affected.

Alcona Community Schools has had students or staff previously self-isolate over three probable cases of coronavirus, which included a NEMCSA Head Start class, a football player, and a staff member.

Onaway Area Schools closed last month, but returned to school the following day because of a virus scare.

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