School officials optimistic about finishing year in-person
Tue, 02/23/2021 - 1:30pm caleb
As COVID-19 numbers continue to improve in the area, district remains committed to providing face to face learning
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The Crawford AuSable School District experienced a difficult time in November when staff shortages and an emergency order from the state forced a brief return to remote learning at some buildings, but school officials are now expressing optimism with regard to finishing the remainder of the school year with in-person sessions as COVID-19 numbers continue to improve in the area.
In mid-November, the Crawford AuSable School District closed Grayling Middle School and Grayling High School due to staff shortages caused in large part by people qualifying as “close contacts” and having to quarantine, said Justin Gluesing, Crawford AuSable School District Superintendent.
On Sunday, November 15, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a revised “Gatherings and Face Mask Order” that forced the closure – or “pause,” as state officials have often called it – of in-person learning at Michigan high schools for three weeks.
Gluesing said the school system would have likely faced a few more days of closed schools due to the staff shortages even if the MDHHS order hadn’t forced the shutdown of high schools. Gluesing said the shutdown was warranted based on the COVID-19 numbers at the time, but it was important for the school district to resume face to face learning when the numbers improved.
“The pause prior to winter break was needed based on what I was seeing. The return to in-person was also needed,” Gluesing said. “I was glad we were able to come back.”
Gluesing said the brief return to remote learning went well. He said it was much easier for high school students to transition to remote learning than some of the younger students because they did not require parents to guide them through the process. Gluesing said some technology adjustments made in the time between last spring and the start of the current school year also helped.
“It was a fairly seamless transition,” Gluesing said.
Gluesing said the district is still committed to completing the school year with in-person learning if possible, and he’s optimistic it will happen.
“Right now everything remains very positive, very optimistic,” Gluesing said.
He said staff and students are working well to keep the schools safely open.
Gluesing said many staff members received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, February 19. Instead of closing school or having a remote learning day, staff members covered for each other during the vaccination appointments, Gluesing said.
“By the end of the month 100 percent of the staff who have requested vaccine will have received both doses,” Gluesing said. “All of the data continues to show that’s important.”
“I feel very good that we’ve been able to be in-person as long as we have,” Gluesing said. “That’s something I know we can feel proud of as a district. I’m glad that we made the decision to start in-person and stay in-person. That’s a credit to our staff and all the efforts they made to make this year happen. The kids have taken a lot of ownership too in helping with the day to day operations. The kids have been great. I feel very good about how things are going.”
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services ended its ban on contact practices and competition for indoor high school sports in early February, and Grayling High School has hosted several basketball games and wrestling meets in the last three weeks. During the announcement of the revised order, MDHHS officials recommended that sports venues allow only two spectators per athlete, but Grayling High School – after getting more guidance from the state – settled on a set of regulations that offers a few more fans in the gymnasium.
“Things have gone well with that,” Gluesing said. “It’s good that we’ve been able to open a few more seats for spectators.”
Gluesing said people can also watch the games from home now with the district’s Pixellot camera system in place. The streaming of games is available through a subscription to the NFHS Network.
“It’s good that we have that additional option for family members who can’t be here,” Gluesing said. “It’s a great addition to our community’s ability to see the games and be a part of it.”