By Mike Kruzman /

The Howell Public Schools Board of Education will review and potentially approve the district’s return to school plan at a special meeting tonight.

Per Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-142 all school districts must adopt a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan laying out how they will implement safety protocols and provide instruction to students based on which phase of the MI Safe Start Plan the district is in at any given time. At today’s 5pm special meeting of the HPS Board of Education, officials will choose whether or not to adopt the latest draft of the plan.

If the region slips back into phase 1, 2, or 3, all schools will be closed and learning will be done remotely. If the district remains in phase 4, students are allowed to return to in-person learning with requirements and strong recommendations from the governor’s back to school roadmap.

In phase 4 all staff will be required to wear masks, except when eating. Begindergarten -12th grade students must wear facial coverings in hallways and common areas except for during meals. Sixth to 12th grade students must wear coverings in classrooms. For younger students, they are strongly recommended. All students, staff and bus drivers must also wear masks during school transportation. Bus drivers will clean and disinfect buses after every route. Desks will be arranged facing the same direction and spaced 6 feet apart where possible. Frequently touched surfaces will be cleaned at least every 4 hours, with student desks being wiped down by teachers with a diluted bleach solution after every class period. Band and gym classes will be held outside when possible. If a student exhibits symptoms of a communicable disease, they will be isolated in the building and the parents/guardians will be contacted. The district has also implemented measures to support positive mental and social emotional health. Distance learning opportunities are available for students not wishing to return to an in-person environment through Highlander Virtual.

If the district moves to phase 5, HPS will continue to work closely with the Livingston County Health Department regarding protocols for screening students and staff. Many of the cleaning and social distancing aspects from phase 4 will still be in effect where possible. Facial coverings will no longer be a requirement, but will still be strongly recommended.

A full copy of the latest draft being presented is available on our website. The plan must be approved at least one week in advance of the first day of school. Howell students are scheduled to return on Wednesday, August 19th, meaning the plan must have approval by the 12th. Should it not be approved later today, the Board of Education still has a regular meeting scheduled for next Monday, August 10th.