Brandywine school board accepts back to school plan

NILES — Brandywine Community Schools are moving forward with plans to reopen for in-person instruction starting Aug. 31.

Monday evening, the Brandywine Board of Education voted to approve its fall Preparedness and Response plan for the 2020-2021 school year. The policy outlines the district’s plans for reopening under the different phases of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Safe Start plan. Districts across the state are required to submit three different plans for different stages of the state’s reopening — one for fully remote work, one for returning with strict restrictions and one with more relaxed protocols and additional flexibility — by Aug. 15.

As the southwest Michigan region is currently in Phase 4 of the state’s reopening, the district plans to start in-person instruction with strict protocols and precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on Aug. 31.

“We have been charged with making a preparedness plan that outlines what will happen in the different phases,” said Brandywine Superintendent Karen Weimer. “This plan is designed to address our preparedness for each phase, and it does that.”

The plan calls for mandatory masks in all buildings, encourages as much distance between students as possible, requires stringent cleaning protocols and encourages frequent handwashing. The plan also calls on parents to take their perform wellness checks with their children before sending them to school and to keep children who are ill home.

The plan was previously discussed at an Aug. 3 meeting. Several teachers called into that meeting expressing concerns about safety when returning to school in the pandemic and the feasibility of enforcing some of the protocols in the back to school plan.

“We have received feedback from parents, students and staff members, and their feedback is greatly and truly appreciated,” Weimer said Monday evening. “I can assure you I would not be recommending a plan that would jeopardize our students and staff.”

Based on feedback from that meeting, Weimer said the district is strengthening its remote learning for Phases 1 through 3 and offering both in-person and virtual options for Phase 4. The plan has also been amended to make mask wearing mandatory for all students, including elementary students. Previously, grades kindergarten through fifth grade would not have been required to wear masks.

Weimer said the plan was made with input from the Berrien County Health Department, and that health department officials said there was nothing in the current data to support changing Brandywine’s current back to school plan. She added that district administration would continue to monitor the data and adjust as needed to keep students and staff safe.

“The plan is a fluid, living document, as throughout the year, we will more than likely move through different phases,” Weimer said. “Currently, we are in Phase 4, and our plan is to open with in-person and virtual learning, but as we all know, situations can change quickly. We will continue to monitor information from the health department and the state as it affects our plans.”

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