Brandywine Community Schools to hear public comment Monday, vote next week

NILES — As the deadline for having 2020-21 school year Preparedness Plans approved by school district boards draws near, superintendents like Brandywine Community School’s Karen Weimer are working hard to sort through the details. Families of students enrolled in public schools are waiting to receive decisions from the school districts. When they do, they can prepare themselves and their children for what school will look like in the fall with COVID-19 precautions in place.

“It’s been very hard work,” Weimer said. “It’s been a very stressful time. We are trying to make the best decision we can based on the most current information, which is ever-changing.”

The administrators at Brandywine Community Schools have been attending webinars from the school system’s attorneys, professional organizations, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office, and Berrien County Health Department to work through the guidance available. Weimer has also been working with area superintendents.

“There has been tons of hours put into this,” she said. “We’ve done tons of research and discussion of creating a plan for back to school.”

On July 29, Brandywine Community Schools released a summary of its return to school plan on social media.

“The district is continuing the finalize plans for the upcoming school year, and as those plans are updated they will be shared with families,” the school district’s Facebook post said.

The summary outlined an in-person and virtual instruction offering.

“If public health conditions allow it, Brandywine plans to resume in-person instruction to start the school year,” the plan said.

The plan for in-person instruction addressed a potential shift to remote learning if COVID-19 measures required it. It said the remote learning would have “more rigorous requirements and more robust academic instructions than the stopgap measures” implemented during the mandated school shutdowns in March.

The virtual instruction offered was a 100 percent remote option for K-12 families.

The commitment period to virtual instruction was semester long, and within the plan it said would rely on parent assistance.

For in-person instruction, according to the release, if the state of Michigan stayed in its current precautionary COVID-19 state of Phase 4, “face coverings are required for staff at all times.”

Concerns from personal protective equipment, hygiene, spacing and movement through the halls, transportation, large gatherings, cleaning and the shift to remote were all addressed in the two pages of in-person instruction summary released.

“Students, staff and families will be receiving ongoing training and reminders with guidance from the Berrien County Health Department about property handwashing, physical distancing, virus spread and risk mitigation protocols,” the summary said.

Today, the Brandywine Community Schools Board will meet virtually at 6:30 p.m. In this special meeting, community members are provided the opportunity to speak to the board before it makes its final decisions at the Board’s regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 10.

“The board is going to ask questions. I’m sure the community has questions,” Weimer said. “I know teachers are going to be joining us, and some of them will have comment they are going to share. It’s going to be a discussion tonight to hear people.”

As the plans continue to be worked on by administrators, Weimer said they will take into account the discussion from Monday’s meeting.

“We are truly in this together,” Weimer said. “It’s going to take all of us.”

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