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Lansing School District will be online only in the fall due to teacher health risks

An empty classroom
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
O.k., o.k., we know this one is empty, but some high school students in the Detroit Public Schools say their classroom are far from empty.

Some school districts are in the thick of work devising a plan to return students to the classroom for face-to-face instruction in the fall. 

Many of the plans will likely be a hybrid, two days in school, three days online, for example, in order to reduce class sizes and allow for physical distancing.

But the Lansing School District is taking a different approach.  The district will offer online-only instruction starting on August 26th.

School Board President Gabrielle  Lawrence says the coronavirus pandemic is not under control in Michigan.

"I admire the sentiment behind trying to do a hybrid, but I don't see how that mitigates the risk of spreading the virus enough.  I can't see how that makes it safe," says Lawrence.  "And then we're asking even more of our teachers, not only to be prepared to teach in person but also now to be prepared to teach remotely."

Lawrence says the decision was made after consulting with teachers.  Some are over age 50 or even 60, she says, some are immunocompromised or are living with someone who is immunocompromised, and some are living with elderly parents.

"Although the risk from transferring from kid to kid seems to be low, the risk of transferring from kid to adult is not low," she says.  "We don't want our employees to be scared that they're literally going to get a virus that could kill them if they come back to work."

Lawrence says the online experience will be much better than it was in the spring. 

School administrators, consultants and teachers are working this week to develop the online system, which Lawrence says will likely be much more like traditional classroom instruction than it was in the spring. 

Most teachers are likely to actually be in their own classrooms, presenting material over Zoom, while students "attend" class from home.           

Many teachers in other districts are extremely worried about returning to in-person instruction in the fall because of the pandemic. 

The union representing teachers at Ann Arbor Public Schools has demanded an online-only system, but so far, it appears administrators are still planning on a hybrid system, in which teachers present some material in person and some online.

AAPS Superintendent Jeanice Swift has not said what she'll do if large numbers of teachers refuse to show up for work.

The union representing teachers in the Detroit Public Schools Community District also is warning it may not be safe for teachers to return to face-to-face instruction, but there, too, administrators have not changed their plans for a hybrid system.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.