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School board may look into more in-person instruction

The Wayland Board of Education apparently is open to the idea of accelerating the district’s learning plan from enhanced hybrid to more in-person instruction.

The board will have a work session at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25, to talk about such possibilities in the wake of new information about and weapons against the Covid-19 virus pandemic.

“I think we need to make a plan to get students back to school full time as soon as possible,” said Board Treasurer Toni Ordway.

Wayland, like the vast majority of schools in Allegan County, has been operating under a hybrid system that has featured one group of students getting classroom instruction on Mondays and Thursdays every week, a different group get it Tuesdays and Fridays and setting aside Wednesdays for all virtual learning and special arrangements for some students to catch up.

However, it has been shown that as many as 80 percent of parents favor children getting in-person instruction five days per week.

New Board Member Jason Shane said, “If we would choose to accelerate the plan, I’m sure 80% of the parents would support it… I want to make sure we’re doing this safely and correctly.”

Indeed, board members agreed students’ safety is of the utmost importance, but when the board chose the hybrid option last fall, the Covid vaccine was not yet available.

Superintendent Dr. Christina Hinds said she too wants students to return to the classrooms full time, but only when conditions warrant it.

But Trustee Theresa Dobry said, “I think if 100% of our students were tested, the positivity rate would be low.”

Kimberly Wolf, a parent attending the meeting on line, reminded board members, “This vaccine is not available to our children who are under 16, and just vaccinating some of the faculty will not protect them (the students).”

Another parent, Brenda Edwards, asked why a contact sport like wrestling is starting up next week while schools remain open less than half the time and she asked what will happen if teachers and staff refuse to be vaccinated.

Dr. Hinds told board members she and her administrative team, assistant Superintendents Patricia Velie and Theresa Fulk, would work on as much data as possible and set the table for a discussion in earnest about possibilities going forward.

One of the problems is that Wayland and all other Allegan County school districts currently are rated a “D” in infection risk by the Health Department. The enhanced hybrid model insists Wayland move up to a “C” for at least three consecutive weeks and then move up to a “B” in order to have in-person classroom instruction for all four days per week.

Then there in conflicting information presented by the State of Michigan about less than 8% infection rate, but an uptick in deaths since the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

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