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Back to Learning: DeWitt Public Schools starting school year virtually to keep students, staff safe

Schools are allowed in-person instruction during Phase Four
Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 4:35 PM EDT
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DEWITT, Mich. (WILX) - Many school districts are choosing to start the school year virtually-even if in-person instruction is allowed.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed schools in mid-March to stop the spread of COVID-19. Under her Return to School Roadmap, districts need to come up with plans for each phase of the MI Safe Start Plan.

“It’s been the hardest decision of my career by far,” said DeWitt Public Schools Superintendent John Deiter.

Deiter didn't take the decision to start the school year virtually lightly.

"There's not a good option in this," he said.

In-person instruction is allowed as long as the state remains in Phase Four of the MI Safe Start Plan.

Gov. Whitmer said last week that a final decision wouldn’t come until just before the school year started.

Deiter said he couldn’t wait that long.

“By making the decision now, it gives our staff time to focus on the remote instruction. And, it gives our community time to make plans for their children,” he said.

Deiter said most families in the district would be comfortable sending their children back to school.

But, he also needs to keep staff members safe.

"Last year in DeWitt alone, we had over 15 people, that were either regular or regular substitutes employees, that were over 70. So we have a lot of concerns to try and manage as far as that goes," Deiter said.

There is still a lot to learn about COVID-19 and how it spreads in children.

“For a long time, they were saying children under age of 18 weren’t very wide spreaders or people who would be infected by this virus. Then, that recommendation was changed to age 10 or younger. Then, this weekend there were two different papers that were published that start to contradict that,” said Deiter.

By starting the school year online, Deiter said it allows them to phase students back into the building instead of doing it all at once.

As early as Labor Day, Deiter hopes to bring students with special needs and elementary students into class.

“It’s going to be especially difficult for kindergarten students, first, second grade students. For example, to pick up with remote learning. They are not as independent as the older kids,” Deiter said.

Parents can choose to keep their students in online classes when in-person instruction begins.

DeWitt Public Schools starts the school year August 24.

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