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Global Pandemic, Not a Global Panic

August 13, 2020

We are in mid-August and preparing to return to school. We are also in the midst of a global pandemic, making this return to school unlike any we’ve experienced. There are so many questions, and for most of those questions, the answers change daily. 

  • What is safe? 
  • Are masks necessary? 
  • How often should we insist upon hand-washing and cleaning of classrooms? 
  • How will I know if it is safe to send my child to school? 
  • What should I do if my child is symptomatic? 
  • Why doesn’t the school take my child’s temperature each day?

From March 13, the date schools shuttered for the remainder of the school year, the catchphrase, “We are in this together,” promotes reassurance and trust. As we prepare to re-open the school buildings, that catchphrase has become even more critical. Navigating this new landscape of teaching and learning calls upon  ALL of us at home, at school, and in the community to adapt quickly to new safety protocols and new learning spaces. Following the guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Washtenaw County Health Department, and the Michigan School Code, we can be reasonably assured that the school buildings are ready and staff is prepared to welcome students into the schools. That guidance, however, is limiting. 

Schools cannot randomly or arbitrarily give physical examinations to students. The Michigan School Code, section 380.1504, asserts that schools may not conduct compulsory physical examinations; this includes mandatory temperature checks. The school will continue assessing students that are ill, including taking the child’s temperature.

Families, we need your help. Families must assess each student’s well-being each morning before the child comes to school. Governor Whitmer’s Michigan Safe Schools Roadmap, released on June 30, 2020, recommends that families check each child’s temperature daily at home before school. (p.24)  The presence of a fever higher than 100.4o Fahrenheit or the child is symptomatic (cough, shortness of breath) should prompt the family to keep the child at home and follow up with the family physician.

The recommendations from the CDC echo those found in the Governor’s Roadmap. 

  • CDC does not currently recommend that schools conduct universal symptom screenings (screening all students grades K-12)
  • Parents or caregivers are strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of infectious illness every day.
  • Students who are sick should not attend school in-person.

Working together with families, a safe return to school is possible.  Community members also help control the spread of the novel virus COVID-19 by wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings, and closely monitoring personal health. We are in this together, and together, we will safely return our children and staff members to school.

SAS Reopening Survey Results

August 12, 2020

We recently (August 6-9) surveyed our families and staff related to the learning format they preferred for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Click here to see the results & the presentation made to the Saline Board of Education on August 11th.

The presentation and all other COVID related school opening information can be found on the Saline Area Schools Return to Learn page.

Return to Learn Information

August 6, 2020

As of this morning, the survey has been sent to parents and teachers related to their desire for learning (or teaching) models to start the 20/21 school year.

Click here for the “Return to Learn” page on our district website that has more information and the presentation about the plans. This page will be updated frequently as we add new information based on community feedback.

Community Update – August 3rd

August 4, 2020

(This email was sent to Saline Area Schools families and staff on August 3rd. Building leaders will be hosting “Zoom” meetings on August 6th & 7th for staff and families.)

August 3rd, 2020

Saline Area Schools Community, 

As many of you know, we have been working to determine the most effective approach to providing safe, high quality instruction for the coming school year and this is no small task. I am thankful for the efforts of the faculty and staff, community members, public health agencies, and educational leaders from around the country involved in helping us plan.

The SAS Connected Learning Plan that is being finalized outlines and describes the various instructional models in response to the 6 phases of the MI Safe Start Plan, including an all-virtual option and a gradual in-person option. Within this document, the following areas will be outlined for your reference: student learning pathways, communication structure, safety and hygiene, social and emotional wellness, special populations, transportation, food service, technology, childcare and other considerations. The SAS Connected Learning Plan will be published to the community shortly after approval at the upcoming Board of Education meeting.

The details of the proposed timeline for opening school this fall are as follows:

Notes: 

*Please know that the option you select will represent a commitment for the first trimester of school. We will allow for parents to revisit the current situation regarding COVID-19 at the end of the first trimester. 

*All hybrid and in person instruction is contingent on local health conditions and still being in Phase 4 (or higher) of the Governor’s Road Map.

Based on the information provided above, we are going to ask families to take a Connected Learning Plan survey that will ask you your instructional model preferences, technology and transportation needs. The timing for the development, distribution and communication of the plan is extremely condensed and evolves frequently. This week’s timeline, for your reference: 

  • Monday, August 3rd: SAS administration held all-staff virtual meetings to discuss the Connected Learning Plan to receive feedback and answer questions. 
  • Wednesday, August 5th: The Board of Education will hold a Special Meeting at 6:00 p.m. via Zoom. There will be a presentation of the Connected Learning Plan and this meeting is open to the public. Meeting information is linked here under “District News.” 
  • Thursday, August 6th: The Connected Learning Plan survey will be sent via email to all SAS families. 
  • Thursday, August 6th & Friday, August 7th: Community Webinars hosted by individual schools – please look for an email from your building administrator(s). 
  • Sunday, August 9th: The Connected Learning Plan survey closes. 
  • Tuesday, August 11th: SAS Board of Education conducts final vote on the Connected Learning Plan.  

We understand that you have many questions. The Let’s Talk platform is available to communicate quickly with our team. Please continue to look for more information throughout this week and thank you for your continued patience and support. 

Sincerely, 
 

Scot A. Graden

Superintendent

Decision Making that Makes Sense

July 22, 2020

During this time of extreme disruption in everyday life, no person, family, business, or institution has escaped some impact. The COVID-19 global pandemic has both short and long-term ramifications. With these disruptions and the ever-changing progression of the disease, effective decision making has been a challenge, to put it mildly.  

Almost daily, parents and community members offer feedback about the school’s “delay” in making a final decision regarding the start of the 2020-2021 school year. That feedback is understandable and expected; families need time to plan. I get that. The anxiety and stress of the uncertainties we are facing are causing legitimate concerns for families. Noting that, making a premature decision sets up the likely scenario of getting it wrong. Saline Schools strives for excellence in all that we do. During this time of a global pandemic, we must make informed decisions in the best interest of the students and staff. Some of the largest and most prominent school districts in the country are back-tracking on earlier plans to reopen. As anticipated, parents in these districts are frustrated with the flip-flop just weeks before the scheduled school start date.

Saline Area Schools’ leadership team is reviewing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Michigan Department of Education, the Washtenaw County Health Department, and the county school Superintendents. Saline’s building-level administrators and teacher leaders have met throughout the summer to develop instructional plans that are viable and safe for students and staff. Custodial staff undergoes training to ensure that the buildings are clean, sanitized, and ready to welcome students if and when that happens. Transportation and support staff are redesigning busing and classroom spaces to ensure the safety and welfare of all children. This work is on-going and flexible as the guidance changes.

An announcement regarding the plan for safely educating Saline’s most precious assets is forthcoming. We appreciate your patience as we develop strategies that are adequate, safe, and sustainable. Many Saline Area Schools’ staff members are working diligently to be as prepared as possible for a myriad of scenarios that might occur. 

Community Message – July 12th

July 12, 2020

This message was originally sent to Saline Area Schools families on July 7th.

Saline Area Schools Families,

Last week, Governor Whitmer issued the “MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020- 21 Return to School Roadmap.” The Roadmap provides required and strongly recommended safety protocols to keep school communities safe based on the status of the coronavirus. Since June 5th, a Distance Learning Committee composed of administration, staff and teachers have been working diligently on the framework for what student learning may look like in the fall of 2020 for Saline students. With over 2,600 responses to our Distance Learning Survey, our team has a strong collection of feedback from our families to reference and provide a productive and safe learning environment. 

Our timeline is as follows: 

  • Monday, July 13th, 2020: Facebook Live with Superintendent Graden, 4:00 p.m. – tune in to ask questions and receive additional information about our plans. 
  • Monday, July 13th, 2020: Updated FAQs posted to the SAS COVID-19 Resource Page
  • Monday, July 27th, 2020: Draft of learner framework completed by SAS staff. 
  • Week of August 14th, 2020: The final version of the Saline Area Schools framework, formulated to result in fully-funded state aid, will be communicated to families. 

For more information, please continue to check our website

Thank you, 

Scot A. Graden

Superintendent 

We See You, We Hear You, You Are Valued

June 2, 2020

Public education designed for real access and opportunities, and free of institutionalized barriers, is a fundamental building block of a brighter future for all.  It is necessary to remove and combat ignorant and often deadly ideologies like the racism that have led to this current boiling point in our society.  

My role needs not to be that of a gatekeeper.  I should not be involved with determining who has opportunities to be heard, to feel valued, and to contribute to a positive future.  More voices, and in particular, those voices that have not been a part of the conversation must be heard.

I would like to make it clear that Saline Area Schools is here to offer support to any student struggling during these turbulent times. School and life can be chaotic and stressful enough without COVID and the tragedy of violence against innocent people. Students are inundated with such immense stresses – be that academically or socially – and we are always here to help students learn how to cope, manage and find ways to focus on working to improve their communities during these stressful times. 

We are a community that does not support violence, discrimination, racism, or prejudicial treatment. As a nation, we must demand equality for all races. As one Saline community, we must support each other during this time of turbulence and unrest, especially our Black community members. For our families of color, we see you, hear you, stand by you, and value you. We must defend and support each and every member of our community.

Four Strategies for Distance Learning

April 21, 2020

As the statewide school closure began on March 16, many Michigan School districts hit pause and waited in hopes of reopening after Spring Break. Saline Area Schools, however, did not pause. Within hours of the state’s declaration, Saline teachers and administrators began organizing a plan to continue educating all students. Initially, in deference to equity, the method was to focus on supplemental instruction; skill maintenance rather than skill-building seemed to make the most sense. Many districts had valid concerns about fairness, staff capacity, and available resources. The reality is – Saline had similar apprehensions. However, the culture of the Saline district and the community is one of action. Leaping into action and using the last few weeks of March to develop a plan – Saline’s educators were prepared for the April 3, 2020, Executive Order that suspended in-person education and moved all public schools in Michigan to a distance-learning format.

Saline Schools launched its initial plan, minus the supplemental focus, on April 6, 2020. Now in Week #3, teachers, administrators, support staff, and students are learning every day how to make this system work. Four key areas are critical to the success of a distance learning program, especially when launched during an ongoing public health crisis. Those points are delineated below. 

Connections

Relationships are critical. The students need to know that we miss them. Impersonal, neutral “check-in” emails are not sufficient. Often, students need to connect with their classmates, other building staff members, and the community. Zoom calls, Google chats, and hangouts work well in a reciprocal fashion. Students “see” the teacher; the teacher does an eyes-on wellness check with the student. A global pandemic disrupts families in several ways: social, emotional, financial, educational, and health-wise. The disruption within families is genuine. Parents placed into new roles, routines are skewed, and folks are fearful of what lies ahead. The school, its teachers, administrators, and support staff, can provide families with some sense of normalcy amid chaos. Consistent relationship nurturing does just that. 

Flexibility

Indeed, this entire COVID-19 situation is an exercise in being flexible. Educators tend to do better when following the rules, adhering to a published schedule, managing a classroom with a meticulously crafted lesson plans, and controlling whenever possible, the intended outcome. Control gives educators a sense of safety. Leading a class, a school, or a district is often predicated on systems of control. Bell schedules, curricula, standards, grades, and contracts all serve to preserve a sense of order and control. In today’s environment, strict systems of control are no longer possible. Letting go and allowing creativity to blossom might be the advantageous outcome of this new delivery model. Breaking some of the convenient control conventions that have limited creative thinking in the past might lead to further learning outcomes – for both students and educators!  

Predictability

The pandemic and school closure certainly generated a strong sense of unpredictability and even fear. Even so, much remains the same. It has been paramount for our staff to share predictable routines, consistent instructional practices, and develop some “new normals” on which students and families can count. Already, I have come to expect the Sunday emails from teachers to my children as they set up the week for learning. I see each building Principal continue with staff and parent newsletters that establish and reinforce the predictable nature of how we share information and do business.

Empowerment

Much like the issue of control, this dynamic has shifted power in new ways. I have seen our educators allow students to demonstrate their learning in new ways. With rigid expectations gone, staff members are empowering students with opportunities (assignments) that enable them to think critically about the world around them. Empowering our students is a silver lining that is beginning to emerge.

Realizing that we are only a few weeks into this great distance learning experiment of 2020, please know that we continue to learn, shape content, and deliver instruction in new ways each day. This effort is crisis management and not a work of art. In sharing my thoughts to date, please do not infer that we have perfected distance learning and replaced the high-quality educational system that has been the norm. Chromebooks and weekly playlists and Zoom meetings are merely a way to promote relationships, flexibility, and predictability with instruction. I do believe that the four components listed above are aspects that will translate well back to in-person education. We all hope that happens soon. Be well, Saline.

Community Resource Guide

April 6, 2020

Click Here to access the Saline Community Resource Guide for COVID-19

Be Good to Each Other

March 20, 2020

These are challenging times – and am I not talking about the long lines at Costco or technical glitches with Zoom meetings. The very fabric and stability of our society is now tested, yanked apart, and rocked in so many ways. This uncertainty is unprecedented for my generation (Gen X) and for those that are younger. Despite this alarming unknown, as I watch our community work together to help each other in the face of this pandemic, I see great promise in how the response to adversity unites us. Generations past have shown us strength in times of trial, and resilience when challenged. We, too, can learn those skills. This pandemic is not the first time we have faced adversity together. And it will not be the last.

However, I also worry about the inevitable spread of the virus. Undoubtedly, it will impact us in significant ways that tear at our relationships, our economy, and our sense of community. In short, the challenges have truly just begun.

This reality has led me to think about the real threat. A disease like Novel COVID-19 can not only threaten one’s life; it confronts our selfishness, pride, fear, hypocrisy – this threat is an attack our very humanity. The crisis, too, highlights the inextricable bonds of humanity and prompts us to consider how much we have in common. We are all in this together. Today, more than ever, we must use this terrible crisis as an opportunity to learn, to lend a helping hand, and to remember our core values. We must exhibit humility, kindness, and service above self.

Stay home. Connect remotely, Share what you can. Stay well, and offer up your goods to those whose needs are greater than yours. We must care for each other and be kind to each other. We can’t take anything for granted.

We must remember this – “DO give yourself grace. You have been given a big task during an unprecedented time with possibly no training. Any access to learning is significant.”

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