The Dearborn Public Schools district has been out of school since March of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken control of the world. Since then, students started the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year online using tools such as Schoology and Zoom. Teachers and students have had to work together to adjust to yet another “new normal.” On Oct. 12, 2020, the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education conducted a meeting to make a decision about whether or not sending students back to school would be safe. A motion was passed to continue online learning, as well as learning labs, until at least Oct. 26, 2020. The decision passed with a vote of 6-1. On Oct. 26, board members will then revisit the topic of reopening schools and will make another decision to open schools or to maintain the status quo.
School Board Vice President Jim Thorpe was the only member to vote “yes” to have students return to in person instruction. Thorpe said he voted to have schools reopen because learning is more effective for students face to face; and if done properly, the risks of the virus being spread could be reduced.
“Students learn better in person. Waiting until people feel totally safe would probably require another year,” Thorpe said. “I believe the risks of reopening could be minimized based on things I have mentioned (masks, cleaning, distance). It won’t be easy. It will look a lot different and it will require cooperation from everyone, but it is time to move forward.”
Executive Director of Student Achievement Fatme Faraj said online learning has some benefits for teachers, students, and parents.
“Some of the opportunities are the culture of teamwork across the schools and within my own team, and the new learning opportunities for teachers, students, and parents especially in the area of using digital tools for learning,” Faraj said. “As well as improved parental engagement in the child’s learning, the upgrade of the district technology resources.”
Dearborn High School head principal, Adam Martin, said there have been several challenges the district has had to tackle during this period of providing online instruction.
“One of the biggest struggles has been the amount of work that it’s taking to build online learning opportunities through Schoology,” Martin said. “Not having done this before, and not being able to see kids face to face, through Zoom, it’s very difficult to gauge if students are getting what they’re supposed to be getting.”
Rima Hassan, head principal at Woodworth Middle School, said some students are struggling with the transition to online learning and that the school has a solution and it will keep students safe along with getting the extra help they need.
“Many parents and students want to go back to the way things were. Ideally, we all do. We know that our district is doing their best to ensure the safety of all stakeholders,” Hassan said. “Some students and parents are asking for more support for their children. This is where our learning labs are coming into place. Teachers are able to meet with students in small groups of instruction to provide that extra support. We are very grateful for everything our teachers are doing to support our students.”
AP Language Arts teacher Mary Kubicek has had several of her children graduate from DHS. As a parent, Kubicek said she is worried about other parents in the district trying to push for schools to open.
“’I’m very concerned about the number of Dearborn parents who are pressuring the Board to open schools. I hope more people realize that even though some places are opening that allow people to gather in small numbers, we need to let the data be our guide and not throw hundreds of students, or in the case of high schools in Dearborn, thousands of students together in small, poorly-ventilated spaces simply because it’s convenient,” Kubicek said.
DHS Junior Mariam Zorkot said it has been a challenge in terms of having to adjust to not being able to attend school in person.
“Transitioning from in person schooling to online schooling has been a struggle for me because as a learner, it’s easier for me to learn a topic through hands-on activities and sharing my thoughts with others classmates,” Zorkot said. “Although it’s just the beginning of the school year I can feel a loss of connection between other students and myself.”