Special board meeting addressed questions about special education, tweaks in plan for Buchanan Community Schools

BUCHANAN — Students and families in the Buchanan Community School district will soon have finalized plans to choose from before the first day of class begins on Sept. 8.

School administrators and board members are finalizing the school’s return to school plan, to be presented to the school board at a meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday.

During the special meeting, Mark Kurland, executive director of academic services, read through the 21-page outline for the Michigan Safe Schools Roadmap Buchanan Community Schools District Plan draft current to Aug. 6.

At the call-in only special board meeting Tuesday evening, the board heard two questions submitted by parents.

A question from Brandy Babcock was read to the board and administration, asking specifically why teachers could not stream their in-person instruction to students at home.

“At the [town hall] meeting, I asked why teachers could not ‘go live’ from their classrooms while teaching for parents who were not comfortable sending their kids to in-person class, so they could have students watch and participate in classes that way,” Babcock said. “At the time, Mr. Kurland said it would be a good idea, but that you would have be careful with students’ privacy. That doesn’t seem to be a good answer.”

She expressed students would not need to be include in the video stream’s visual field at all, the camera would be trained on the instructor.

Superintendent Patricia Robinson responded that it was a good idea, and she had been checking into what it would take to implement it within the high school classrooms.

“It is something we can quickly explore to see if we can do,” Robinson said.

She said part of the issue would be ensuring there was enough audio and visual equipment available for each instructor to be recorded and streamed.

Another question was raised by a concerned parent about students with individual learning plans and special needs being included in the learning plans being offered.

Another parent inquired as to how students with individual learning plans and special needs would be accommodated. The parent cited occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy as parts of a student’s learning plan that would need to continue to be offered or adapted with a virtual or remote plan.

They also raised concerns about students who could not medically wear a face mask, wondering if they would be treated differently than children who could wear the coverings.

Robinson responded by apologizing that special needs and individualized plans were not addressed in the public meetings.

“It has been addressed in our meetings,” she said.

She said she is working with the Berrien RESA and special education educators to work on contingency plans if the school is to go remote again.

Educators said they were trying to address questions with parents directly, especially when it came to independent education plans.

As Kurland read through the back to school drafted plan, he noted details such as food service protocols and spacing in classrooms.

“There is no 6-foot requirement in the plan. It’s recommended, but I’ll be honest with you, there isn’t a district around that can give that 6-foot recommended, so what we’re asking our staff to do is move kids as far away as they possibly can from each other. That may be the end of the table, two to a table. We are doing the best we can, and most districts are honoring that and trying to do the best they can.”

Questions about the remote learning versus the Buchanan Virtual Academy opportunities continued to be brought up by board members at the end of the meeting.

“I want the community to remember that this is a fluid document,” said board of education secretary Kelly Laesch.

The meeting for the board of education to meet and give final approval to the Buchanan Community Schools District Plan was scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday.

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