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  • James Townsend

PPS shares Parent Planning Survey

On Monday, the Portland Public School superintendent William Heath sent an email to parents requesting their feedback. The text of the email is listed below.

Dear Families,

Every summer our school district goes through extensive planning for the new school year. This summer has been one like no other. Our work this summer has been focused on how to return students and staff to school safely as well as provide a quality education experience for all students. The MI Safe Schools Roadmap was released on June 30, and we are actively working with the Ionia County Health Department, Ionia County Intermediate School District, and other County and neighboring schools to better understand the Roadmap and determine the best options for our community.

The Return to School Roadmap requires the district to develop specific plans based on our assigned MI Safe Start Plan Phase for our region. There are six phases in the MI Safe Start Plan and the district is developing a plan for when we are in phases 1 through 3, phase 4, and phase 5. In phases 1 through 3 the district will not be allowed to reopen and we will offer virtual education to our students. In phase 4 we will be able to return to In-Person instruction under stringent guidelines. In phase 5 the district will remain open with less stringent guidelines. You can learn more about the Roadmap by following this link: MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap.

In order to effectively and safely implement our plans for this school year PPS will offer both In-Person and an optional virtual education model.

In order for us to effectively plan for this year we would like all parents to take a survey. This survey is for planning purposes only and your response does not commit you to any decisions at this time. Later this summer we will communicate the process for selecting your child’s plan for next year. Completing the survey will help us ensure that we have the resources and educational supports needed for all of our students. We ask that all survey responses are complete by Monday, July 27th.

As you think about the return to school this fall there are a few things that you should keep in mind. Our district is mostly in Ionia County but also stretches into both Eaton and Clinton Counties, therefore we are considered in both Region 2 (Grand Rapids) and Region 5 (Lansing). PPS will be required to follow the guidance of the region with the most restrictive phase.

We are currently in phase 4 of the Safe Start Plan. During phase 4 the district will be able to offer In-Person instruction with stringent guidelines in place. The district will adopt all required items in the Return to School Roadmap and as many of the recommended items as we can. One of the required items for phase 4 is that students in grades 6 - 12 will be required to wear masks throughout the day. Those students who are in PK - 5 will not be required to wear masks in class but will be required to wear masks outside the classroom. Once we reach phase 5 some of the required items, including face masks, become recommended items.

Every family will need to make decisions on what is best for their children. PPS has years of successful experience with virtual education as well as assisting homeschool families educate their own children. As a district we understand that a child’s education is their own and should never be one size fits all. Because of this we will offer an optional virtual program for students in phases 4 and 5 for those who prefer that option. This virtual program will mirror our In-Person instruction and will be developed and run by our own teaching staff. It is critical for the education of our students that any model selected by families is similar to our In-Person instruction and allows students to access the same curriculum and resources. Last spring we did our best to provide distance learning with minimal time and training. Last year's distance learning model will be different from this year's virtual model. Last year our focus was to “get through” the end of the year. This year we must provide a robust virtual experience that covers all of our required educational standards. To be successful this will take a significant commitment by our staff and parents. We will need to ensure that our virtual and In-Person students are both receiving equivalent educational experiences. Because of this, families selecting the virtual option will experience some differences from the experience in the spring. Those differences include increased expectations and support from the district. Students enrolled in the optional virtual program will be expected to complete the required standards assigned to that class or grade level. The daily time commitment for virtual will most likely be more than what many students experienced in the spring.

PPS is proud to offer numerous extracurricular activities for our students. Participating in the virtual program for next year will not change a student's ability to participate in extracurricular activities. We will make every effort to continue offering as many of our extracurricular activities. Our athletic plan will be determined by the MHSAA guidance. As that is released we will continue to communicate with those programs and families.

There will be many changes to how school looks and operates next year. We are still working through these plans as new information is provided to the district. There is no way to answer all questions that you may have in one document. We continue to build and adjust our plans and once finalized we will communicate with our families. I thank you for your patience and understanding during these times and appreciate the continued support as we work to ensure all of our students receive a quality and safe education.

In a separate email to the Beacon, Superintendent William Heath said, "The district is actively working to make plans for next year. There is an endless number of questions on what next year will look like. While I would like to provide answers to all of them now, we simply do not have them. Every district is working to answer these questions and as we get closer to school starting we will have more information. I am happy to do a Q&A session with the Beacon in a few weeks so that I can answer as many questions as I can at that time. The next few weeks will provide more clarity on many of our questions. Right now the district is focused on the larger questions in regards to educational planning and health and safety protocols. This survey will help us get a better understanding on how many families will choose virtual over in-person instruction and how many students will need access to transportation. The answers that we receive will help us gauge the number of students that we will be working with in-person and depending on that number we can develop proper protocols."

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