Superintendent’s Message

August 18, 2020

Return to School Update


Good afternoon, 

The recommendation to open school was approved at last night’s school board meeting. Thank you to everyone who was able to tune in. While the plan is not ideal when compared to what school used to look like, the safety of our students and staff and the unity of our community were our primary goals. We feel confident that it will provide for flexibility and consistency, personalization, and safety. 

The printed presentation and a recording of the live presentation have been posted on our school website for anyone who would like to watch and review the details. 

Given the recommendations below, we are asking all families to take a survey confirming their fall enrollment intentions. We are asking all families to complete the survey before midnight Friday, August 21st. Families who do not fill out the survey will be automatically re-enrolled in LPS. 

To summarize the key points, the plan outlines that: 

Students will attend school in person for one day the first week of school to meet teachers, fill out and submit forms, collect materials, and safely engage with their peers in their assigned cohorts. Everyone will follow all safety protocols as outlined in our approved Return to Learn plan. The schedule for the first week is as follows: 

    ◦    10th - 12th grades     Tuesday, September 8th 

    ◦    6th - 9th grades       Wednesday, September 9th

    ◦    3rd - 5th grades       Thursday, September 10 

    ◦    K-2 grades             Friday, September 11 

LPS will continue in an e-learning environment for the remainder of the first semester for all students with LPS staff and curriculum 

LPS staff will host on-site, optional small group instruction, interventions, and student support as scheduled by teachers

LPS will approve a limited number of all-virtual, third party enrollments based on medically fragile circumstances
Our CTC students will be attending in person at the Career-Tech Center each day. Details regarding transportation and scheduling will be provided at a later date. Please watch for a town hall meeting specifically for CTC families in the next week or two. Additionally, to help you in your decision making, we will be hosting town hall meetings for kindergarten, English as a Second Language, and general information inquiries and information. The meeting schedule can be found on our school website.

There are still many questions about how school will function. One of the questions is around meal service. During the COVID crisis in the spring, the federal government allowed for free meals to any family who wanted or needed them. At this point, the federal government has not put this program in place for the fall, which means that LPS can only provide meals for those LPS families who qualify for free or reduced lunch. All families are encouraged to complete this confidential form to apply for free and reduced meals. These meals will be delivered using a similar distribution system as was used in the spring. We are working to develop an optional fee-based, pick-up meal option for families who do not qualify as well. 

The question around child care for families is also foremost on our minds. We understand that having students home during the day creates child care issues for many families; however, the decision to learn remotely for a full semester allows families to develop long-term solutions. We are unable to provide childcare on site, so we are encouraging our families to organize and work together to create personalized solutions. It was encouraging to see that this conversation already started last night in the chat feature within our Zoom board meeting. 

We will be sending out more communication in the next two weeks with information about enrollment forms, technology use agreements, immunizations, emergency contacts, and all of the other beginning of the year paperwork. Please stay tuned as we approach our first day of school. 

Thank you so much for your engagement, questions, ideas, and participation. We are eager to get started again!

Stephanie



August 16, 2020

Good Afternoon, 

Decision to return in person or via e-learning

Our Return to School Task Force plan was approved by the board of education on July 11th and submitted to the TBAISD for approval by the Michigan Department of Education. That was a major milestone for the school, and I plan to recommend how we should re-open, whether in person or via remote e-learning, tomorrow night at the regularly scheduled August school board meeting which will be held via Zoom. 

While none of us has ever experienced anything like this, we feel extremely confident that our decision will provide for a high quality, rigorous, and meaningful learning experience for students regardless of whether we are in person on September 8th or start at home for remote e-learning. 

We will also host two more Zoom town hall meetings, one for families for whom English is a second language (ESL), and one for families of kindergarten parents. Below are the links for these Zoom events which are also posted on our school website:

We will be sending a survey on Tuesday asking parents to make their selection based on the decision to return in person or via e-learning. That survey will need to be completed by Friday, August 21st, at midnight. Any families who were enrolled in LPS last year who choose not to participate in the survey will automatically be re-enrolled in LPS. 

Again, we are asking for your trust, grace, and support as you listen to the recommendation tomorrow evening. 

Athletics

As communicated earlier in the week, we suspended practices for two days for contact tracing due to an athlete’s positive test for COVID-19. It is important to note that the family and student did absolutely everything correctly, followed protocol, and through their quick and comprehensive actions, reduced potential spread. It is this kind of response that we will need everyone to emulate as we move forward. We are so grateful for the seriousness with which they dealt with the situation and the seriousness displayed by the direct contacts who are also quarantining.

The notification and tracing process outlined in our Return to School plan was efficient and worked as we hoped and expected it would. The health department coordinated with us and we are able to resume practices tomorrow. However, the MHSAA announced on Friday that the football season will be moved to the spring, so students participating on the co-op football team will not be competing this fall. We know that this is a disappointment to many in our football community and are available with emotional support for these students and families.

Construction Project Progress 

Work continues on the construction project, and with only two weeks before staff are scheduled to return and three weeks before students are scheduled to begin classes, we are monitoring progress daily. The exterior brick on the new gym and the elementary school is progressing rapidly, and it is becoming easier to envision the completed project. 

With the construction project considerations, and the executive order that limits indoor gatherings to 10 people and the directive to work from home where possible still in effect, our team is making adjustments day-to-day. The decision tomorrow evening will prioritize the safety and wellbeing of staff and students as our number one goal and keeping our community unified as we move forward through this pandemic together as a second key factor. 

I hope you are all well and will join the Zoom board of education meeting tomorrow evening. 

Stephanie




August 13, 2020

Dear LPS families,

We recently became aware of a student athlete on the soccer team who tested positive for COVID-19. We found out on Wednesday afternoon at approximately 4:00 pm. We are responsible for informing all who are considered “close contacts” by the CDC guidelines, but felt it appropriate to notify our entire school community. There was no direct exposure during LPS athletic practices that we are aware of at this time. If you or your child(ren) are required to quarantine because of an exposure, the health department will contact you. If your child does not qualify as a close contact, you will not hear from the health department. The health department wants to protect the confidentiality of this person unless there is a reason to inform you of this person’s identity. At this time, it is the role of LPS to tell all the families that we are moving forward under the guidance of the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department and that all measures have been taken to protect the wellbeing of your child(ren), including suspending all athletic practices until contract tracing can be completed. The health department advises that you please monitor for onset of symptoms related to COVID19, including fever, cough, difficulty breathing, headache, sore throat, runny nose/ congestion, diarrhea, or new fatigue. If you note any change in your health or the health of your child, please call your regular medical provider.

Sincerely, 

Stephanie Long, LPS Superintendent




August 3, 2020


Dear Leland Families, 

We are excited to share our plan to return to school this fall. Our Return to Learn Task Force, which included staff, teachers, students, parents, board of education members, health department officials, and administrators has been working all summer.  While clearly not a “business as usual” model due to the ongoing pandemic, we have every confidence that the LPS plan outlines a high quality, rigorous, compassionate, and safe learning experience for our students, whether we are in-person or have to remain or return to remote e-learning. 

As you will see outlined below, the timeline for our launch and approval is tight. Our next steps as we move toward September:

- Parent review of the plan
 
- Question and answer virtual town hall meetings tomorrow or Wednesday

- Respond to parent survey before August 7th

- Board work session to review and finalize the plan on August 11

- Superintendent submits the plan to the ISD and State of Michigan for approval before August 15th

- Enrollment forms for Option 1 (LPS in person or remote) or Option 2 (virtual school) due on August 21st

- LPS’s decision to begin school in person on September 8th or to begin the school year at home with our remote, e-learning alternative

•Parent review of the plan 

•Question and answer virtual town hall meetings tomorrow or Wednesday

•Respond to parent survey before August 7th

•Board work session to review and finalize the plan on August 11

•Superintendent submits the plan to the ISD and State of Michigan for approval before August 15th

•Enrollment forms for Option 1 (LPS in person or remote) or Option 2 (virtual school) due on August 21st

•LPS’s decision to begin school in person on September 8th or to begin the school year at home with our remote, e-learning alternative


In addition, if we hope to return to school in person, we all need to be working to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by following safety guidelines: wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, avoid large social gatherings, and maintain social distance whenever possible. 

Please visit our website to read a quick summary of our plan or the full plan. The links to the Zoom town halls and the link to the survey are also posted there. 

Once the plan has been approved by the State of Michigan, the final version will be posted on the website. We will hold off as long as possible before making the decision whether to return in person or remotely. This is difficult for everyone, and while it’s extremely hard to live in the land of the unknown, in order to provide the safest educational experience for children, we need to continually monitor the situation. Thank you for your patience, flexibility, and continued support. 

Warmly, 

Stephanie Joseph Long, Superintendent





July 31, 2020

Good Evening, 

Return to School Task Force Plan: Our return to school task force and staff are excited to be finalizing the plan to reopen school on September 8th. Please look for an email with the plan from Jeanne Gross on Monday. To help everyone process the information and ask questions, we are holding virtual Q&A sessions next week by grade levels. The schedule for those meetings: 

  • Tuesday, August 4th - Grades 6-9, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
  • Tuesday, August 4th - Grades 10-12, 7:30 - 8:30 pm
  • Wednesday, August 5th - Grades K-2, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
  • Wednesday, August 5th, Grades 3-5, 7:30 - 8:30 pm

After you have read through the plan and asked questions at our town hall meetings (the Zoom links for these dates will be included in the email on Monday), we will be asking families to complete a survey to help us prepare for the new school year. We will send that link next week as well. 

While none of us has ever tried to start a new school year under these conditions, and we will all have to adjust our expectations to accommodate for increased safety protocols, we feel extremely confident that our plan will provide for a high quality, rigorous, and meaningful learning experience for students regardless of whether we are in person on September 8th or start at home for remote learning. Once our plan is approved, we will make the decision of whether to start in person or remotely. 

We are asking that you keep an open mind as you read through the plan and consider your options. Returning to school in person on September 8th is our ultimate goal and will require that all of us practice and model the safety protocols now with our children so that they are comfortable with the new expectations before school begins. 

 

Athletics: We have received the most recent update from the MHSAA, and we are currently reviewing the sport specific guidelines and protocols with our coaching staff. We are monitoring the Governor’s order with regard to how the new limits on indoor gatherings impact the most recent MHSAA guidelines.  We will plan on sending out updated information for the start of fall sports next week. Thank you for our patience. 

 

Construction Project Progress: Great progress is being made to the new elementary school. There will be additional soft space between the current elementary school building and the garden for our littlest students to play outdoors this fall while we wait for the new playground to be completed. The cafeteria renovation will be completed in the next couple of weeks, and we are so eager for you to see it. It’s pretty amazing to stand in the cafe and be able to see straight down the new hallway all the way to the end of the elementary school. The new staircase is in, too!

hope you are all well, and wish you happy weekend, 

Stephanie 

 




July 17, 2020

Good Afternoon, 

Our Return to School Task Force sub committees and full group have been meeting to continue our work to solidify plans for reopening. We are confident that the plan will provide  high quality, in-person or virtual instruction if necessary. We are also working on the parent and staff surveys to accompany the plan when the finished draft is released. Student council representatives will be joining the team next week to help us plan with student insights in mind. As mentioned last week, the task force includes teachers, school administrators, our athletic director, board members, parents, the health department, and our facilities and transportation personnel. Everyone is to be commended for their dedication and time this summer in working to develop the best, most thoughtful plan possible. Attending to students’ social, emotional, and academic needs as well as their personal safety are all at the forefront of these planning conversations.  

In trying to plan for next year, we’d like to get some indication of the number of students who will be returning given the COVID situation. Please complete this brief survey to let us know your thinking at this time regarding your plans for returning to school. Please respond by the end of the day on Monday. Thank you for your help with this. As mentioned above, we will also send a survey soliciting your feedback to our plan once it is ready.

The very difficult decision was made this week, after consultation with the county health department, to hold commencement virtually on Thursday, July 23rd, at 7:00 pm. Seniors, their families, and staff were notified earlier this week. We will share the link with the whole community, so anyone who would like to tune in and congratulate these amazing seniors is welcomed and encouraged to participate. 

The health department statement in part, reads, “Between July 4 and July 15 there have been 16 young people between the ages of 15-23 in the Leland community who have tested positive for COVID-19. These individuals are all connected through work, family and social gatherings and between them there are many close contacts (close to 100 known contacts) who have been exposed and potentially infected.  Some are still some waiting for test results, and it is likely that there are others who have not yet been tested or identified. The extent of positive infections and the number of potentially infected is concerning as we can assume at this point that COVID-19 is fairly widespread. While most of these young people have had either no symptoms or mild symptoms, the concern is that if this continues to spread we will soon begin seeing more severe illness in those community members who are most vulnerable. The Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department has been working to identify and isolate those who have COVID-19 or who have been exposed, but we need the community’s assistance in stopping the spread by avoiding social gatherings, practicing social distancing, wearing a mask when around non-household members, and frequent hand washing.”  To access the full Public Health Alert, click here. 

The link on the school's homepage to Construction Project Progress has been updated. Please share that with our neighbors and the residents nearest the school. Our intention is to keep everyone updated about next steps, noise, and general neighborhood happenings regarding the building project. 

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Monday, July 20th, at 6:00 pm via this Zoom link. The link is also posted on the school website and the doors of the school. 

I hope you are all well, and have a happy weekend. 

Stephanie

Superintendent




July 10, 2020

Good Afternoon,

Well, that was a fast week! I will be sending a weekly note to keep you updated about what’s going on at Leland. These notes will be informal and informational. Please call or email if you have questions.

Many of you expressed difficulties opening the two student Black Lives Matter letters I linked in my previous communication. Those will be posted on the school website for easier student and parent access. Check for them under the Superintendent’s Message within my July 1 letter below. These weekly notes will also be posted there if you ever need or want to reference them later.

Our return to school task force met yesterday to develop the school reopening plan. The task force includes teachers, school administrators, our athletic director, board members, parents, the health department, and our facilities and transportation personnel. We will be working to develop the reopening plan between now and August 1st. We will share a final draft of that plan with you on or before August 3rd and ask for your feedback . Additionally, we will ask you to complete a survey to help us prepare to welcome students on our first scheduled day, September 8th. Our plan will flex to accommodate the current phase of our region regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will be hosting a live virtual launch of the plan with families once it has been approved by the board and the state of Michigan. That date will most likely be sometime during the third week of August.

There is now a link on the school homepage to Construction Project Progress that will be updated each Friday. Please share that with our neighbors and the residents nearest the school. Our intention is to keep everyone updated about next steps, noise, and general neighborhood happenings regarding the building project.

Commencement is still planned to occur live on Thursday, July 23, at 7:00 pm at Hancock Park. Masks and social distancing will be required. There will be reserved designated seating for families, and Jeanne will be sending a letter this evening with more details and specifics.

I hope you are all well, and have a happy weekend,

Stephanie Long Superintendent


July 1, 2020

 

Dear Leland Families, 

I am so excited to write this letter from the main office at school after my first official full day as your new superintendent. It was a great day, the first day in what I hope to be many years of service to you, your children, and the Leland Public School community. 

Your confidence in me and your support have been truly humbling and heartwarming. It is a joy to be working on behalf of the students and families who have enjoyed a long tradition of educational excellence in the care of the staff and administration here. I am honored to be in your service. 

I’ve also been busy getting up to speed with the plans for reopening school, the work on the construction project, and the adjustments to the budget. A few of things I’ve been doing to get on board have included:

  • Attending weekly regional principal and superintendent meetings
  • Participating in meetings with state legislators
  • Participating in legislative meetings with key educational lobbyists
  • Meeting with interim superintendent Mr. Hartigan, Principal Gross, and the business manager, Mrs. Thomas
  • Communicating with Mr. Robinson and the school board
  • Facilitated a staff development training session
  • Meeting with Mr. Stowe and the construction team

While the learning curve is steep in these uncertain times, our team here is dedicated and working diligently throughout the summer to learn as much as we can and develop the best plan possible to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.  As if that weren’t plenty, we have also been paying attention to national civil unrest, the state and national budget crisis, and the local impact of educational funding shortfalls. It feels like we have been under siege with confusion, and upheaval. 

As an educational organization, we have a responsibility to respond in ways that promote learning, civility, engagement, and collaboration. We need to model for our students how to deal with adversity, how to overcome disappointment, and how to move forward in ways that allow us to seize opportunities and build something stronger and better. It is in that spirit that we are working to:

  • Respond to Governor Whittmer’s Executive Order 2020-142 to develop plans for reopening by mobilizing our Continuity of Learning Task Force 
  • Support staff in learning about culturally responsive instructional practices
  • Engage our students in conversations about racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and police brutality
  • Follow the MHSAA and national guidelines regarding resuming athletics and competitions
  • Monitor and amend our budget in response to cuts or increases in state or federal funding
  • Provide professional development for staff, specifically around teaming, new curricular materials, and best practices in virtual learning models and strategies

I have also emailed two letters to students as well, one for secondary students and one for our younger students that talk about the protests and civil unrest they have been seeing in the news and on social media. I encourage you to read these letters with your children and learn alongside them and us as we work to develop a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the disparity in the quality of life so many in our country experience by virtue of their race. 

In the next month, our task force will be working to develop reopening plans that we will share with you before they are finalized. Please look for these plans and a survey in late July that we hope you’ll take to help us understand your thoughts and feelings about returning to school. 

We are also working on an informal meet and greet that will allow us to get to know each other and explore the construction progress, both from safe distances. The progress on the building projects has been incredible. So much is happening now. More on that to come. 

Commencement is planned for Thursday, July 23, at 7:00 pm at Hancock Park. Jeanne will be sending a reminder later this month with details. 

We have a lot of work to do - good, meaningful work - and we will need your support to make sure we plan, learn, and grow in community and collaboration with each other. I’m eager to do this work together. 

Thank you again for your support, and I’m looking forward to meeting you in person soon. 


Stephanie Long

Superintendent

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