Guest Column: Returning to School Safely


 

By Jaleelah Ahmed, Superintendent of Hamtramck Public Schools

The safety and well-being of our school community has been and will continue to be our first priority at Hamtramck Public Schools. Throughout the pandemic, we have demonstrated an abundance of caution because of our commitment to our students, families, teachers and staff. While the number of COVID-19 cases in Metro Detroit have decreased substantially over the past several weeks, we must remain vigilant in the safety precautions we take to protect our school community. Thus, we have implemented a gradual transition back to in-person learning starting the week of March 1, welcoming our at-risk students – English Learners (newcomers), Special Needs Learners and At-Promise Students – back to our learning labs.

We are excited to take this step towards reopening our buildings and returning to a sense of normalcy with the hope that we are soon able to welcome all students back to in-person learning. For while our teachers have done a remarkable job working remotely with their students this school year, we know that in-person learning is essential to the academic, social and emotional growth of our community’s children.

To safely welcome our at-risk students back, we hired a safety consulting firm and followed strict health and safety protocols, including making sure proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is available, conducting frequent cleaning and restricting visitors to the schools. Everyone entering HPS buildings – including teacher and staff – must complete a health questionnaire and have their temperature taken. Additionally, I’m pleased to say that the entire HPS staff has received access to vaccinations in January and February.

Of course, we are also following social distancing guidelines at each of our schools. We are working closely with our safety consultants and building administrators to ensure learning labs are laid out safely and follow all COVID-19 protocols for social distancing.

Like our residents, we hope reopening our learning labs is the beginning of the end of COVID-19 in our schools. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, positive cases may still occur. Should that happen, HPS will alert parents and staff of positive cases, while ensuring the confidentiality of the person infected is protected. HPS and the Wayne County Health Department will work together to identify those at risk of exposure through contact tracing. If cases increase, we will evaluate and manage those risks accordingly.

We cannot wait to see all of our students back in our schools and we are working diligently to make that happen. With the successful return to school of our at-risk students, we are finalizing steps to bring everyone back and we will continue to update the school community as plans are created.

As we begin to reintroduce in-person learning across the district, we would ask for the community’s continued grace and understanding. What we’ve seen over the past year has reinforced that we are stronger when we are united than when we are alone.

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