Royal Oak Tribune

District expected to end planned return to classes

Rise of COVID-19 cases causing concern

- By Mike McConnell mmcconnell@medianewsg­roup.com @mmcconnell­01 on Twitter

The Royal Oak Schools superinten­dent is recommendi­ng the district refrain from a scheduled return to classes next Monday because of increasing COVID-19 rates.

Superinten­dent Mary Beth Fitzpatric­k was set to meet with current board members Wednesday for approval of her recommenda­tion.

Her plan comes just as three newcomers and one incumbent were elected to the school board Tuesday. The new members will take their seats in January.

Board member-elect Lisa-Aline Hanes said she supports the move to hold off on a return to class in Royal Oak Schools.

“With COVID-19 on the rise we have to keep our kids safe,” she said, adding that other school districts in the area are also scuttling plans for in-person classes. “I think a lot of parents in our community want the same thing.”

Fitzpatric­k announced her recommenda­tion Tuesday evening to pull back from a return to classes twice a week for elementary and middle school students. Under that plan high school students continued with virtual learning.

Letters were sent to parents throughout the district.

“My recommenda­tion to the

board will be to remain in the current mode of remote learning until at least the end of the first semester on Jan. 29, 2021,” Fitzpatric­k said in her statement.

When school officials reviewed their plan in October to blend virtual learning with in-person classes start

ing Nov. 9 Oakland County was at a low level of COVID-19 risk.

But that risk has increased to the highest risk level in recent risk to the highest risk level, which means COVID-19 cases countywide are 150 or more per million, with 20 percent or greater rate of positivity, Fitzpatric­k said.

County figures this week show the seven-day average of COVID-19 is close to 350

cases, more than triple the amount a few weeks ago. Since the pandemic started the county has had a total of at least 22,579 cases and 1,164 deaths.

“We are also experienci­ng some critical shortages of staff due to quarantine rules,” Fitzpatric­k said. “Some of our cases are being transmitte­d outside of school, where staff and students are reporting positive cases in their households.”

If that pattern continues, the district will be unable to staff many classrooms and programs. There is also a critical shortage of substitute teachers, she added.

Preschool and special education students will be moved to full remote learning from their current hybrid plan of virtual and inperson learning, under Fitzpatric­k’s recommenda­tion to the school board.

Board members are ex

pected to approve the pullback from a return to classes, given state and county health rules for schools. Fitzpatric­k said the district has excellent mitigation and safety measures in place for when there is a return to in-person learning.

“The rise in (COVID-19) cases and subsequent impact on our staff and families are far too great of risks to take at this time,” she said.

 ?? TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO ?? Royal Oak Schools Superinten­dent Mary Beth Fitzpatric­k, above, is recommendi­ng the district delay a return to limited in-person classes Monday until at least Jan. 29 given climbing rates of COVID-19 and health guidelines.
TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO Royal Oak Schools Superinten­dent Mary Beth Fitzpatric­k, above, is recommendi­ng the district delay a return to limited in-person classes Monday until at least Jan. 29 given climbing rates of COVID-19 and health guidelines.

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