By Tom Tolen & Jon King /

At a workshop session Monday night, the Brighton Board of Education discussed whether to continue with a “virtual” day during the school week or go back to the pre-pandemic Monday-through-Friday, in-classroom setup.

After the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, the board decided to go from five days a week in the classroom to having classroom instruction on Mondays and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesdays being a virtual, at-home day when deep cleaning would take place in the schools.

In addition, the Brighton Virtual Academy - in which all courses are conducted online — was created for those families uncomfortable with their child going to school in person. But with COVID numbers now declining in Michigan, and particularly low in Livingston County, the board said they favored returning to five days a week with face-to-face learning, even though that would necessitate going from the current “block" programming back to a six-period class day at Scranton Middle School and Brighton High School. Board Vice President Alicia Reid called it "The Gold Standard" for education.

However, almost all of the parents who commented at the meeting voiced opposition to that prospect, at least for the rest of the remaining school year, which has just 12 Wednesdays remaining. Parent Katheryne Friske told the board, “That virtual Wednesday has been crucial for their social/emotional reset,” while Parent Sue Ellen Ikens urged the board to “not fix what is not broken….Let them get through this year with as little structure change as possible.”

Brighton Library Media Specialist Margaret Adams, who had the coronavirus herself (although not contracted at school), told the board, “The 12 Wednesdays that we have left — are they really worth the risk (of more students or staff getting COVID)?” She added, “The 2-1-2 model has been very beneficial for this district,” citing the low incidence of COVID in the Brighton Area Schools.

In addition, a survey taken last week of parents, students and staff (full results are below) showed that while there were mixed results among parents, the overwhelming majority of students and teachers were in favor of a continuation of the 2-1-2 plan. The majority of in-person BHS and Scranton parents (59.8%/52%) prefer the current arrangement. However, according to the survey the majority of in-person Maltby parents (58.3%) prefer a shift to five days. The results were far different among students and teachers, who were overwhelming in their preference for a continuation of the 2-1-2 plan (89.5%/86.6%), as were non-teaching employees (64.8%). And 3/4ths of the virtual parents 75.7%) prefer the 2-1-2 setup.

The board ultimately decided to have 5-day-per-week vs. "enhanced" 2-1-2 options placed on the next meeting agenda as an action item. However, Board President Roger Myers says that doesn’t necessarily mean the board will make a decision at that time, telling WHMI it could remain as an action item for one or more meetings before the board decides. Myers said, in his words, “It’s our responsibility to make decisions in the safest possible environment, particularly considering the constant changes (to which parents, students and staff have had to adjust).” The board will meet in regular, virtual session next Monday, Feb. 22nd, at 7 p.m.

Survey results (over 5,500 responses were received):

In-person Junior Kindergarten through 4th grade parents — 70.2% prefer a shift to 5 days
In-person Maltby parents — 58.3% prefer a shift to 5 days
In-person Scranton parents- 52% prefer to remain with a 2-1-2 structure
In-person BHS parents — 59.8% prefer to remain with the 2-1-2 structure
Virtual parents — 75.7% prefer to remain with the 2-1-2 structure
Employees (non-teachers) — 64.8% prefer to remain with the 2-1-2 structure
Teachers - 86.6% prefer to remain with the 2-1-2 structure
Students - 89.5% prefer to remain with the 2-1-2 structure