By Mike Kruzman /

At the recent meeting of the Fowlerville Community Schools Board of Education, many teachers and parents asked the Board to reconsider an immediate return to in-person learning.

Tuesday’s regular meeting was held online over Zoom. With schools across Livingston County and the state preparing their plans for the upcoming school year in accordance to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s roadmap, several FCS teachers asked for a more conservative approach for their district. Districts everywhere must prepare three back to school plans covering what phase of the state’s MI Safe Start plan the district is in at any time. In phase four, which Livingston County currently is in, in-person learning is again allowed, but with strict requirements and strong recommendations.

During public comment, Miriam Mangen, a teacher in the district for 20 years, said that while academic and social growth were not at their best at the end of the last school year, she is asking the Board to strongly consider going online-only for at least the first semester. Mangen said that while she wants to resume in-person learning, she feels it is unreasonable to think that “mask-to-mask” learning would be a return to normalcy. Mangen said they are heading into a hyper tense situation where the focus will be more on safety, policing masks, and disinfecting desks than it will be on academic growth. She challenged the Board to be proactive and give teachers the tools to immerse themselves in strategic engaging and proficient learning while giving students time to plan for “what we know is inevitable: a transition to online learning.”

This online first semester-sentiment was echoed by others, including high school teacher Jennifer Connor. Connor was concerned about having to prepare lesson plans for in-person learning and online classes. With many teachers doing prep for 2-5 classes on top of extracurricular activities, she said it feels like they are being asked to take on 2 different roles with the time and compensation for one. Connor also expressed a concern that in a hybrid-model, students who are online-only are going to fall into the background.

Chemistry teacher Nicole Olszowy is part of the steering committee that is exploring all aspects of the new school year, and pointed out cases in Europe and Israel where schools opened too early and a surge of outbreaks occurred.

ELA teacher Betsy Ording was also worried about the lack of social distancing requirements in the roadmap and fears bringing the virus to her home where multiple members of her family have pre-existing conditions.

Tonya DeFever has a child in the Fowlerville district and has worked as a substitute teacher and supports an online-only first semester. She said risking the lives of children and staff does not work, and allowing fear or political posturing to allow the return of inperson learning doesn’t work towards the goal of safety.

Superintendent Wayne Roedel said this is a challenge and while they don’t have all the answers yet, the district’s steering committee and logistics subcommittee are working hard. He said they’ll have more information as the committee continues, and that they will do their best to include all the voices, but that it’s also difficult to find a win-win scenario for all in this situation.