By Tom Tolen /

At a meeting that lasted over eight hours, the Brighton Board of Education Tuesday night approved the Return-to-School Plan developed and proposed by Interim Superintendent Laura Surrey.

Roughly 80 people spoke at the public comments portion of the meeting, which itself lasted 4 & 1/2 hours. The Return-to-School vote was 5-2, with members Roger Myers, Bill Trombley, Laura Mitchell, Angela Krebs and Board President Andy Burchfield voting in favor and Vice President Alicia Reid and Trustee Ken Stahl voting no. The plan revolves around the 2-1-2 concept — that of having school in the classroom on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesday an “online” day in which instruction will be provided online rather than in the classroom. Also under the plan, the newly-established Brighton Virtual Academy will be a viable option for those uncomfortable with an in-classroom setting.

Due to the concerns expressed about today’s (Aug. 12) deadline for signing up, the district is extending the deadline by two days — to Friday, Aug. 14th. It was also stressed that teachers of the BVA classes will be Brighton teachers and that the course curriculum will be “rigorous”. The numbers are going up quickly, and as of Tuesday, 326 students had been signed to the virtual academy.

Many parents who commented urged the board to start the fall session entirely with virtual, online classes due to the volatility of the coronavirus problem. However, others preferred in-classroom school settings. Surrey noted later in the meeting that Livingston County’s coronavirus infection rate is an extremely low 1.1% — far lower than the surrounding counties, thus posing a relatively low risk to students and teachers.

As part of the Return-to-School motion, the board agreed to push back the start of school to Sept. 8th. Again, on Surrey’s recommendation and in line with parents’ concerns, the board felt that school administration and teachers needed the extra time to prepare for the start of the school year with the additional burdens and protocols that the COVID-19 pandemic will require. But Reid and Stahl objected to the plan for other reasons, saying they believe social distancing would be physically impossible on school buses where 3-4 students are typically placed in each seat. Reid also said social distancing would be impossible at the high school. “You can’t put 2,000 students through the hallways at the same time,” she said. Stahl told fellow members they should take the nod from the Big Ten Conference, saying, quote, “The Big Ten cancelled its season today, and we say we’re going to start school.”

Several students also addressed the board: Incoming BHS senior Jacob Turner said he’d “love to come back to school,” but is concerned about the COVID-19 problem. Brighton teachers in general support a virtual start of school, including Lin Vollmer, who said that in the latest district survey, 77% of staff supported remote learning. Further, Vollmer said, in her words, “I'm tired of being told I’m scared (to go back to school); I’d like to be told I’m concerned.” Morgan Bridgewater said he was concerned that if the schools start the school year in the classroom, some students and teachers would contract the coronavirus and school would have to be shut down. A few parents, including Ryan Sherry, said kindergartners couldn’t be expected to wear masks all day in the classroom. Under the approved plan, although face masks will be required at all grade levels for most settings except eating lunch, in grades junior kindergarten through 4th, teachers will be allowed to give students “mask breaks”.

The Return-to-School plan approved by the board Tuesday night is on the district’s website: With the list of candidates for superintendent having been pared down to six, the board will meet again on Monday, Aug. 17th, to begin a round of interviews with the finalists.

For updated information on the Brighton Virtual Academy and how to sign up, go to: