Saginaw Public Schools plans to give students copies of assignments and resources such as Chromebooks to do work online and by hand for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
The Saginaw Board of Education hosted a virtual meeting to discuss a nearly 30-page continuous learning plan on Wednesday, April 15
The plan takes effect Monday, April 20 and runs until June 13.
The plan comes after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order to keep Michigan school buildings closed the remainder of the school year to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Elementary and secondary students will use various online platforms to continue learning outside the classroom. In addition to the online material, families can pick up resources such as textbooks and workbooks from the district’s food distribution sites.
“We have not met the challenge of how we’re going to receive that material back in order to grade it,” said Superintendent Ramont Roberts. “We’re going to request they do drop-offs at food distribution sites.”
To help parents connect with their student’s teachers about the material or any related matter, teachers will set-up office hours for families to reach them by phone or email.
Once work is returned, it will be graded as a “pass” or “incomplete.”
“We’re not going to fail any students. As per the executive order, you cannot penalize any students if they can’t participate,” said Roberts.
Even classes such as dance or band will be moving to the web.
Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy students and teachers will be using Google Meet to interact with students for their classes. Roberts said students from comprehensive high schools are able to do the same.
An internet hurdle
Students began picking up Chromebooks earlier this week. So far, the school district has given out 350 Chromebooks and plans to give out hundreds more. The computers are only the first step to connecting and learning online.
There are households that don’t have internet access, and getting the service has been a hurdle, according to Roberts.
“We haven’t been able to jump that hurdle,” said Roberts. “We’ve explored trying to get internet access through Spectrum. Spectrum won’t allow us to facilitate that as a district. They are requiring each individual family to set that up.”
Early last month, the internet provider advertised partnering with school districts during the COVID-10 pandemic to help students learn remotely.
The company offers free access to internet and WiFi for 60 days for new PreK-12, college student and educator (PreK-12 teachers and college/university professors) households who don’t currently have internet or WiFi service, and at any service level up to 100 Mbps and other community assistance tools, according to its website.
However, some families still aren’t eligible for the community assistance or are struggling to get it because of some of the requirements, Roberts said.
“They could not have a past account that is delinquent,” Roberts said. “Once the 90 days are over they want them to sign up for an additional service to get the free 90 days. There are other caveats that they’re not marketing when they say they will provide a free service."
As the school district is working through the hurdles, Roberts said students may be able to get internet access from logging into one of the school’s parking lots if they are able to get there.
The class of 2020
Plans to celebrate the success of class of 2020 are still pending.
“Will there be a valedictorian and salutatorian named?” asked board member Ruth Ann Knapp.
Roberts responded, “Yes.”
Plans for a late commencement ceremony and even a prom are on the horizon, but nothing is set in stone yet, according to Roberts.
“Obviously, that is going to be related to how restrictions are lifted and so forth, but even if we have to postpone that to sometime in the summer to be able to give our families those experiences,” Roberts said. “Or we have to adjust it to do it in some kind of way, we’re going to be creative in trying to pull that off.”