Spartan News: MCC prepares for new school year.

August 18, 2020

Scottville Elementary Principal Chris Etchison, center, with teachers Scott Andersen and Mary Scheffler.

Spartan News: MCC prepares for new school year.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Spartan News is a presentation of Mason County Central Schools in cooperation with Mason County Press.

SCOTTVILLE — Mason County Central staff and faculty have been preparing for the beginning of the school year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last Friday, Aug. 14, the school’s technology team met to discuss integration of online classes into face-to-face classrooms. 

Students and families are being offered the choice of face-to-face learning or online learning, called Spartan Connect. They must commit to the choice for a trimester, which is consistent with policies of other local school districts. 

“We’ve been getting a lot of good questions and having a lot of good conversations with families,” High School Principal Jeff Tuka said. “One of the biggest concerns is the use of masks.” 

During last week’s board of education meeting, Superintendent Jeff Mount explained that face-to-face COVID-19 practices, especially the use of masks, will look different depending on grade levels. The current policies are based on the schools being in what the governor’s office is calling “phase 4.” 

Elementary students (grades kindergarten through fifth grade), study in cohorts (the same students are in the same grouping throughout the day). The students will be required to wear masks when in common areas, such as hallways. Once in the classroom, among their cohort, mask use will be optional.

“We know that some parents will want their child to wear a mask and we will do our best to accommodate them,” Scottville Elementary (grades K-2) Principal Chris Etchison said. “Basic hygiene skills are always taught and practiced in the elementary level already, so we are quite confident our students will be able to do their best to follow the guidelines.”

Etchison said elementary students will stay with their class throughout the day. Breakfasts and lunches will be served in the classrooms. At recess, each classroom will stay in a particular area. “Each day, one class will have use of the playground equipment, for example, while another class will be up on the basketball courts or in the gym, then they will rotate” Etchison said. 

Mask use in the secondary levels (sixth through 12th grades) will be more prevalent because students must intermingle in various classrooms depending on their courses of study. 

“Sanitizing stations and social distancing reminders will be placed throughout each building,” Tuka said. 

Mason County Central’s district covers the largest geographical area compared to the other two public schools in Mason County and also has the largest bus fleet. As with other districts, bus riders will be assigned seats and must sit with other family members. Masks will be required on buses. 

Tuka said currently about 14% of MCC’s students have indicated they plan on participating in Spartan Connect. 

“We believe that face-to-face is always the best option when it comes to learning,” Tuka said. “You cannot do better than being in a classroom with a professionally trained teacher. But, the Spartan Connect program is certainly the next best option. Students will be in constant contact with their teaches and will be made to feel as much a part of the classroom as we can do online.” 

Secondary students will use a program called e2020 by Edgenuity. Tuka said the online platform has been used by MCC High School for several years but this will be the first year the middle school will be using the program. 

“Our high school students and teachers are already familiar with e2020 and our middle school faculty is quickly becoming trained in the program as well,” Tuka said. “We will be utilizing many more features of the program compared to how we have used it in the past.”

Tuka said he sees the advancement of remote learning at MCC as an opportunity for the future. 

Etchison said elementary students and teachers will use Google Classroom. He said elementary students will interact live with their students for a select period of time, most likely in the mornings, and have the option to stay in communication with the teacher throughout most of the day. Like Tuka, Etchison said the Spartan Connect option is an opportunity beyond the pandemic.  

“I’m actually pretty excited about this opportunity because it really allows us to provide other opportunities for families who may, in the past, not chosen to utilize the services of their local school district,” Etchison said, referring especially to homeschooling families. 

“In the past homeschool families may have chosen to use a for-profit learning model. Now, if they have the option to enroll their children at MCC and still follow some of their own practices as well.”

Regardless of the direction students select this coming trimester, the school year begins Sept. 8. Families that do not make contact with the school expressing an interest in Spartan Connect will be automatically re-enrolled in traditional school. 

“We encourage all parents or guardians who have any questions to contact their child’s principal,” Tuka said. 

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This story is copyrighted © 2020, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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