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Extending the school year? Locals weigh in

HANCOCK — Michigan State Superintendent of Education, Michael F. Rice, wants to extend the 2020-21 school year, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Rice brought up the topic to state legislators during a joint meeting of the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee and the House Education Committee Tuesday afternoon.

“Given the challenges to teaching and learning during the pandemic, students will need additional instruction time next school year,” Rice said.

Hancock Superintendent, Steve Patchin, said in a Friday email that in spite of concerns that the school year will be extended into July, he does not believe that is where “we are headed” this year.

“Dr. Rice’s comments do illustrate the concern with student academic learning lost, and social/emotional challenges created due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Patchin stated. “We will continue to monitor our students’ growth and progress, developing targeted programming to meet their needs.”

Patchin said that some comments suggested that the school year be extended from 180 to 200 school days for this school year, he stated that at this point, the topic is just a discussion and not a mandate for the year.

During the Feb. 2 House Education Committee meeting, Rice told legislators that the current minimum number of days, 180, was already too low before that pandemic, acknowledging that it is not even close to that of high-performing nations.

“Students and staff need more days next year coming out of the pandemic,” Rice told the committee. “The state legislature should raise the minimum number of days to underscore the need for more time.”

Rice said that in-person instruction-for most children-is superior to education at a distance and given the pandemic, whether they were educated primarily at a distance or largely in person. Most students will receive less instruction from March of last year through the end of this school year than in any similar period of their education.

Patchin in his email, provided details from Hancock’s past 20-2021 school year, offering supporting evidence to Rice’s point.

“As you know, our schools were asked to close to face-to-face learning beginning Monday, March 16, 2020,” Patchin stated. “Our students moved their instruction to distance learning, which took place for the last 55 days of the 2019-20 school year.”

He went on to state that during the Fall Semester, K-12 classes were again moved to distance learning, initially for a two-week period, ending in the first week of Oct.

“Our high school students were then asked to move to distance learning from Thanksgiving thru Christmas, 22 days,” stated Patchin. “This does not count the number of days of face-to-face instruction students have missed due to quarantining from being a close contact to a positive COVID-19 case or being diagnosed as a probable or positive case.”

Patchin went on to state that many students struggled with engaging in distance learning, and with moving in and out of face-to-face learning.

“Currently, we are focusing on targeted interventions to help these students who are struggling,” he stated. “These interventions range from tutoring to extra support in the classroom. We are extremely proud of our education team’s efforts supporting our students learning through these interventions.”

He added, however, that he and the education team are currently exploring programming to offer students this summer.

The goal is to keep students engaged in learning over the summer.

“You will hear more about these options as we put them together, including receiving a survey for parents and students regarding their interest in participating,” he stated. “The program will be designed to be convenient for parents and engaging for students.”

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