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School officials coordinating with state to resume in-person classes

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COLOMA, Mich. -- It’s the question parents and students have been wondering since E-learning started in March — will students return to classrooms this fall?

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday that students and teachers should be able to meet in-person as long as schools meet strict guidelines.

While the specifics won’t be released by the state until June 30, schools are anticipating a mask requirement, temperature checks and increased sanitization.

But since the state lost so much revenue due to the pandemic, they also have to cut costs and schools will be losing some funding.

“That’s the biggest concern, that we’re going to have to do this and then that adds this extra cost to things - like the masks,” said David Ehlers, superintendent of Coloma Community Schools. “Another issue is it’s going to require a different level of cleaning. Where’s everybody cut? They’ve always cut those things that don’t affect the classroom, like custodians.”

Ehlers says he has been talking with other area superintendents to get a consistent idea of how schools can — safely — bring students and teachers back, and says there are four options his district has considered.

“A return to face-to-face learning, not ready to return so we’ll have to start the year out remote learning, and then the possibility of some type of hybrid-type learning environment,” said Ehlers. “Where some kids are coming one part of the day, then maybe other kids are coming.

Then the fourth plan is really a combination of one and two. Yes, we resume normal, but at some point a COVID incident happens and schools have to go out.”

While Ehlers says it seems like much of the Coloma community wants to get back to face-to-face classrooms, he’s also trying to navigate how schools accomplish social distancing, especially with the youngest students.

“You’re not going to find high school kids social distancing, let alone trying to keep kindergartners social distanced,” said Ehlers. “So we know there will be some guidance coming.”

Until the state’s plan is released June 30, schools are unable to make any definitive plans.

“Our ultimate responsibility is that when parents drop their kids off everyday, they expect them to be safe and secure and return to them that way,” said Ehlers.

The Coloma school district has also sent out a survey to parents to get their thoughts on plans for the fall.

“I’m not getting emails from our parents concerned, the sense is a lot of our parents want us to come back to school and face-to-face. I think there’s a feeling that my community wants to return to normal, even though there will not be a normal like there ever was probably,” said Ehlers.

The survey was emailed to all parents in the district. It closes Friday.

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