DUS to go virtual for one week following winter break

DOWAGIAC — Students at Dowagiac Union Schools will begin the new year in distance learning.

During Monday evening’s Dowagiac Board of Education, the board discussed the district’s COVID-19 plan, and voted to have students participate in virtual learning for one week following the holiday break. Following the district’s planning Christmas break, students of all grades will take part in virtual, distance learning from Monday, Jan. 4 to Friday, Jan. 8. On Monday, Jan. 11, students will return to in-person instruction.

Currently, kindergarten through eighth-grade students are taking part in in-person instruction in the district. High school students are in district learning until Dec. 18, according to a Michigan Department of Health and Human Service COVID-19 order.

Board members said the decision to go remote for one week following the Christmas break would allow students to quarantine if needed following the holidays.

Board Vice President Ruth Ausra advocated for at least two weeks of virtual learning following the break due to rising COVID-19 positives in Cass County.

“I think we need to look at the numbers,” she said. “What if the [COVID-19 case] numbers skyrocket even more than they are now? To me, coming back just after that first week would not make any sense at all.”

Despite these concerns, other board members, including Carrie Freeman and Terry Groth, said they believed it was in the best interest of students’ education to get them back to face-to-face learning as soon as possible.

“I think kids learn better in school,” Freeman said. “I have seen attendance numbers. I have seen test scores. I have seen grades. I would like us to get as much face-to-face time as we can with all students, especially K-5. I would just like kids [in-person] as soon as possible.”

The resolution to return to in-person learning following one week of remote learning after the holiday break was passed, with Ausra as the sole “no” vote.

Despite the board’s vote Monday, Superintendent Jonathan Whan said the plan could still change, noting that any orders from the state would supersede the district’s plan.

Also Monday, outgoing board president Larry Schmidt was honored by Superintendent Whan and the rest of the board of education. Schmidt, a Dowagiac graduate and former Dowagiac educator, chose not to run for reelection this November after on the board since 2012.

“Larry has served this board well,” Whan said. “Serving on a board for eight years through some difficult times is a testament to what you do, but more importantly, Larry, what you believe and care about.”

Schmidt’s departure from the board will leave a vacant seat on the school board. The open position, which will be for a two-year term, will be posted by the district, allowing residents to apply. From there, the board will go through a selection process before voting to approve an applicant. The board must fill the vacant seat by Jan. 31.

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