By Jessica Mathews /

School districts locally and across the state have until October 1st to approve new learning plans related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Fowlerville Community Schools Board of Education met virtually Tuesday night, marking the first meeting since students returned to school. Some students are 100% virtual learning and others are back in the classroom. The district is still in the soft start phase, which was said to have been pretty successful so far with older students doing a good job of following rules and masking up.

In March, districts adopted Continuity of Learning Plans as required by the state. They must now approve an Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan, which the board did last night. It’s somewhat similar to the prior plan and addresses the implementation of learning for students during the 2020-2021 school year. However, the new plan establishes math and reading achievement goals that must be reported.

Superintendent Wayne Roedel highlighted an assurances section and noted there are some reading and math goals associated with the new plan and various benchmarks for student growth. Prior to February 1st and June 30th, Roedel will report to the board on how the district is faring with achieving those goals. The plan has to be re-certified by the board every month. The district has to give benchmark assessments in math and reading and make assurances they’ll provide instruction to students. If that instruction is provided virtually, then the district has to be able to provide the technology and get people connected for the delivery of instruction. The district also has to ensure that all students with disabilities or specialized learning plans will be treated equitably with whatever plan is put in place. There are special education review teams currently in place for all students learning virtually.

Roedel told the board that they have to ensure that two-way communication and interaction is happening between staff and students - which is how they’ll track attendance. That two-way interaction is something Roedel has to report to board every month. That involves what percent of students are attending school and what percent the district is reaching at least two-way communications per week with for every student. Roedel said that will be a challenge and is something additional that will be difficult to do moving forward. Whether in person or virtual, Roedel stated everything counts for assignments and students will receive a letter grade for the work they’re doing at end of the semester.

During call to the public, Fowlerville Education Association President and Teacher Carrie DeLuca commented the soft start has been successful in that they haven’t had a shutdown and things seem to be moving well - adding students are wearing masks and seem to very happy to be in the school environment and interacting. DeLuca said staff also seems to be happy to be back to teaching, stressing that teachers have felt supported by administrators and building principals and it’s a very positive team that has been listening to questions, concerns and complaints.

DeLuca also highlighted a member survey and the not-so-positive comments. Some teachers are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted while others commented the time required to implement everything expected is unmanageable and unsustainable. DeLuca noted the top three struggles from survey respondents was the time it takes to create post-content for online class, not having enough time to communicate with online students and building relationships with online students. DeLuca told the board doing the job of an online teacher and face-to-face instruction is unmanageable and she doesn’t know if they can do it all year long, although they’re required to. She said she doesn’t think teachers can work as hard, as late and on nights and weekends - something has to give. DeLuca was positive overall and said they’ll be meeting with administration and have some possible solutions to talk about - adding she knows the district is in a tight position but is hoping to maybe lighten the workload and struggles for teachers.

Now that the board has approved the Extended Learning Plan, it’s required to be forwarded to the Livingston Educational Service Agency by October 1st and must also be posted on the district’s website.