Orion returning to 5 day schedule Feb. 1?

by Mindy Carls correspondent

Orion Superintendent Joe Blessman would like to resume five days of in-person instruction on Feb. 1, he told the Orion school board on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Teachers would continue to provide instruction for students in the all-remote learning program, he said. In-person school days would end at 2 p.m., as they do now, so teachers have time to prepare remote lessons.

Feb. 1 is not set in stone, Blessman said, noting the school board has a meeting before then.

“I don’t know what Feb. 1 will look like,” he said. “It could be March 1.”

Students benefit academically, socially and emotionally when they are in school five days a week, the superintendent said.

Orion schools have been using a hybrid model with in-person learning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and remote learning on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Parents have had the option of keeping their students home for remote learning five days a week.

Board member Brandon Cooper expressed reservations about a return to five days a week of in-person instruction.

“What we’re doing now is working,” he said. “It’s keeping people safe. Getting into classrooms is best in a perfect environment, but what do we risk healthwise doing that?”

Cooper acknowledged Blessman’s comments on area districts that are on five-day schedules, but he said, “Everybody’s buildings are different. Community habits are different.”

Blessman announced tweaks to the schedule for early January. Teachers will have an e-planning day on Monday, Jan. 4. Students will not attend school and will not have assignments.

Tuesday, Jan. 5, through Thursday, Jan. 7, will be e-learning days, he said. If anyone is exposed to the coronavirus over the holidays, symptoms should start to show by then.

In-person learning will resume Friday, Jan. 8, and the district will return to the hybrid schedule for the rest of January, the superintendent said.

Linda Harp, president of the Orion Education Association, presented the results of a faculty and staff survey to the board.

Twenty members of Orion High School personnel responded to the survey. Sixty percent wanted to maintain the current schedule, 30 percent wanted to move to in-person instruction five days a week, and 10 percent wanted to go to a full-remote schedule.

Among 23 responses at Orion Middle School, 32 percent wanted to resume five days a week of in-person learning, while 68 percent did not. Asked a different question about whether they wanted to keep the current hybrid format, 74 percent said yes and 26 percent said no.

C.R. Hanna’s 42 responses were split 50-50 about returning to five days of instruction. Asked about keeping the current schedule, 80 percent said yes and 20 percent no.

Harp said the OEA does not want to be a barrier to changes, and the group recognizes the need to progress toward a five-day in-person schedule. But the OEA prefers to retain the current schedule until starting fully in-person learning at the start the fourth quarter scheduled for Monday, March 15.