Despite Setbacks, HPS Continues Toward In-Person Learning

By Simon Albaugh – Yemeni American News

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – Hamtramck Public School District Board of Education met yesterday, voting to confirm the COVID-19 preparedness and response plan as is.

Despite drawbacks from Wayne County’s severe number of cases of COVID-19 and twice rescheduling the return to in-person learning, the Board of Education voted to ratify the plan for students returning to schools this year.

Two weeks ago, HPS made the decision to move the return for in-person classes to the week of Apr. 12. A week later the return to in-person learning was again pushed to the week of Apr. 19.

“We plan to have students in grades K-12 that have opted for in-person learning back in schools on Monday, April 19,” reads an Apr. 9 statement from Superintendent Jaleelah Ahmed. “At this time, we plan to continue with the upcoming mandated assessments. We continue to work closely with the Wayne County Public Health Division to determine next steps and hope to have an additional update on the remainder of the school year next week.”

County-wide statistics show an extreme caseload as HPS was about to reopen to in-person learning. According to the Wayne County COVID-19 Dashboard, the county has been hovering around 1,000 new cases for all of April. Currently, this is the most severe period for transmission in Wayne County.

Right now, the school district does not keep track of COVID-19 cases within the HPS Community due to students undergoing virtual learning. Michelle Imbrunone, Director of Human Resources for HPS, says the District will be regularly updating its own COVID-19 Dashboard as students come back to classrooms.

In a presentation by Executive Director for Student Achievement Carol Paul and District Nurse Melanie Pieknik, the two outlined the rise in cases, along with new guidance for school districts from the Center for Disease Control.

The suggestions from the CDC include a focus on building ventilation system, masks for students, three feet of space between students and no longer suggests physical barriers among student desks.

“[The CDC is] calling for layered prevention,” Paul said. “Meaning we would have to have two or more prevention strategies with particular emphasis on a universal use of masks and physical distancing. So these are some of the things that we should be considering when we’re talking about opening in a face to face environment.”

Governor Whitmer has also outlined a plan for school districts to voluntarily close high schools for two weeks after spring break.

Looking at data available through Wayne County, a total of 180,495 doses have been administered, with Detroit administering 260,996 doses. Wayne County and Detroit report their COVID-19 data separately.

The data presented by Pieknik shows that this amounts to 29.6% of Wayne County residents being vaccinated.

“In Wayne County, we’re looking at almost 30% is the most recent data of people that have been vaccinated that are eligible,” Pieknik said.

At the end of the meeting, a number of HPS staff expressed their frustration with the decision to push forward with in-person learning. Many said that the numbers don’t reflect the right time for returning to school, with one person still grieving from the loss of a loved one because of complications related to COVID-19.

Superintendent Ahmed told the Board of Education that she had reached out to a number of individuals and organizations about whether to return to in-person learning. Ahmed said they all expressed a desire for returning to in-person learning.

“The response was the same, and that is we must keep our schools open and provide choice to our families that are seeking the option to have their children in person,” said Superintendent Ahmed. “With that being said, we remain to proceed with caution, we will continue to make decisions as necessary, as we have done in the past two weeks… This is the safest route as we continue to gain more information and understand how to proceed with the extra abundance of caution.”

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