(SANILAC COUNTY) – On Monday, August 31st, at 7:45 am, the doors to Deckerville Community Schools opened to allow its eagerly awaited students to return to their teachers and classrooms for the first time since mid-March.
Despite a lengthy shutdown which ended the previous school year, and despite a pandemic, and despite rumors of a delayed start, Deckerville Schools did not waver in its plan to start school on time. Now, after two weeks of in person instruction, school seems to have started like “normal”.
“With the task of planning a safe return to school, sometimes we “over” plan.” Explained Matthew Connelly, principal of the elementary school. “In all actuality, once the planning is complete, we just need to see the plan in action. With a few minor adjustments after the first day, the transition back into school with students went smoothly and better than anticipated.”
As part of Deckerville’s COVID preparedness and response plan, all students and staff are required to wear masks. Students in grades 6-12 must wear masks for the whole school day, although they are given frequent “mask breaks”. Students in kindergarten through 5th grade are allowed to takes off their masks inside of their classrooms. Students with medical issues are not required to wear masks.
“Students have been cooperative for the most part”, said Monica Warczinsky, High School secretary. “They seem to have less of a problem with the mask requirement than the adults do.”
Aside from wearing masks, Deckerville has addressed the pandemic in many other ways. These include the use of three electrostatic disinfection “guns”, installation of hospital grade, alcohol-free hand sanitizing dispensers in all classrooms, busses and common areas, and sanitizing wipes as well as spray bottles and paper towels for classrooms and computer areas. Students are instructed to wash hands frequently and maintain distance when possible. Despite these changes, after two-weeks of face to face instruction, the school day now seems pretty routine.
In contrast, extracurricular activities and sports will look quite a bit different this year. Aside from all athletes being required to wear mask, each student athlete will only be allowed two spectators in the stands, and high school band is not allowed to perform at games.
Although face to face instruction is Deckerville Community Schools’ strong point, parents were also offered a “virtual” option before school started. Deckerville Virtual Academy is administered by an outside vendor, however, students who chose this option remain Deckerville students, and will be allowed to re-enter mainstream learning at the beginning of 2nd semester if they so choose. About 24% of high school and about 10% of elementary students are enrolled in the virtual option.
If Michigan schools enter another extended shutdown, such as occurred at the end of last school year, teachers will be much better prepared to instruct students remotely. The district has purchased enough devices to send them home with students, and teachers have been trained to use Google Classroom.
“We have been really pleased with these first couple of weeks of school”, stated Josh Stern, High School Principal. “Now that everyone is getting comfortable with the new normal, it seems to be pretty close to as regular school as we could be during a pandemic.”
Although the first several days were somewhat hectic, and a few procedures were quickly improved upon, such as lunch and recess, the hallways and classrooms of Deckerville Community Schools are once again filled with the sounds of students learning and going about their school day.
When ask what is exiting about being back to school, 2nd Grade student Addyson Kubik summed it up nicely: “being with my friends and my new new teacher, Mrs. Knoerr!”