Lansing School District students will begin school year in online classes

Mark Johnson
Lansing State Journal

LANSING — Lansing School District students will attend classes online rather than in the classroom this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic, at least for the first marking period. 

The district's Board of Education reviewed proposed return to school plans Thursday. All plans in their entirety will be available for review, officials said. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all schools to submit plans for offering instruction in-person, in a classroom, remotely from home and in a hybrid format.

Lansing schools have agreed to teach students online for at least the first marking period, or from Aug. 31 to Nov. 6, and follow the path of the coronavirus and any resulting government orders to decide when to bring students back to the classroom. 

"It’s impossible to make everyone happy in this situation. No matter what we do next year, some people will not be happy with it," said Gabrielle Lawrence, board president. "This is not an ideal situation for anyone. We are doing the best we can with the information that we have. We are trying to keep students and staff safe and healthy. In my opinion … health is number one."

Deputy Superintendent Delsa Chapman will be live on Facebook at 10 a.m. Friday to answer questions. The community is encouraged to participate in several forums conducted through Zoom where they can learn more and ask questions. Scheduled forums include:

► 3 p.m. Monday for district administrators

► 1 p.m. Tuesday for instructional and support staff

► 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday for the community 

Chapman described the online education to be provided for students as "screen-to-screen" featuring normal core subjects and electives taught by a teacher.  

"Our students will not be relying on modules, they will not be relying on self-paced instruction, but they will have a certified teacher on the opposite side of the screen," she said.

It will be as close to the typical face-to-face classroom experience as possible, she said.

Whitmer signed an executive order that closed schools starting March 16 and later ordered schools to create remote education plans for the rest of the school year.

Student grades in place before schools closed were protected under the executive order, with opportunities for students with failing grades to make up the work and gain credit. Students will be required to attend the online classes next school year and submit coursework for a grade. 

Fall classes won't keep students behind a computer screen for the mandated 5.5 hours of instruction per day. Breaks will be built into the school day, Chapman said, and students will be encouraged to do various physical activities.

Emotional support activities will be built into the virtual curriculum and students will have access to academic and mental health supports. 

Board members raised several concerns going into the fall, including finding ways to help families with working parents and assisting students with special needs. 

Subcommittees are already looking at options to help working families with younger children, Chapman said, like finding a space where students can stay during the day while completing their classwork and following social distancing and other safety guidelines.  

Trustee Farhan Bhatti, a physician, suggested opening a computer lab in two or three schools where those families could drop students off so they could participate in the online classes with support staff monitoring. 

"I know that that's a huge concern and a huge problem when mom and dad have to work," Lawrence said, assuring families that the school district will provide ways to help.

All parents, including those who can be home with their children during the school day, will receive supports from the school district, like an online learning guide for families and educators and "Parent University," featuring instruction on being an effective and supportive parent as a first session, Chapman said.

School district officials are working with outside agencies who can offer services for students with special needs and their families. Contingency plans will be made for each of those students and further instruction will be built around them, Chapman said. 

The school district will look to families to help them update contact information and determine whether families need help finding internet access and devices to use or transportation for the children.

Planning to provide meals for students is ongoing, but Chapman said the meal programs offered this summer likely will continue.

If schools are cleared to resume in-person classes later this year, school district officials will offer parents the choice of their children returning to school or continuing to learn remotely for the entire school year. 

Accommodations will be made for all Lansing school staff who may feel uncomfortable or unsafe returning to schools when in-person classes resume, said Superintendent Sam Sinicropi. Details of the accommodations were not discussed at the meeting.

Teachers will receive remote education training, including through the Ingham Intermediate School District. Instructional coaches who are assigned to each school building also have been training and learning ways to provide teacher support, especially for those teachers who have never taught online.

The ultimate goal is to continue delivering instruction. The most important goal is keeping students safe, Sinicropi said. 

"Hopefully we can get students back into the classroom by the end of the marking period," he said. 

School board members are expected to vote on the education plans at their meeting on Aug. 6.Once approved, the plans will be sent to the Ingham ISD.

Contact Mark Johnson at 517-377-1026 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ByMarkJohnson.