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Lansing Christian prepares for in-person reopening

Lansing Christian School Students to Role Play as Michigan's House of Representatives
Posted at 5:15 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 17:15:53-04

LANSING, Mich. (WSYM) - A number of Mid-Michigan schools are preparing to reopen during the last week of August.

Whether their reopening plan calls for in-person or online learning, all plans must adhere to Governor Whitmer’s ‘Return to Learn’ plan.

Lansing Christian will reopen for in-person classes on Tuesday, August 25th.

They say masks, following CDC and state-mandated guidelines being able to social distance are the main factors in their reopening plans.

“We are committed to physical distancing standards and our facility will allow for that,” explained Wendy Hofman, the Head of School at Lansing Christian.

The school has 525 pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade students.

“The governor put out a road map that gave us a sense of how we could do this safely,” explained Hofman. “There are a number of schools who just can’t because they have a lot of students in the building, their student-teacher ratio is maybe not the same that we have. Knowing that we can do it safely, according to the ‘Return to Learn Plan,’ we’re committed to doing it.”

At Lansing Christian, that means using spaces like the main hall for makeshift classrooms and spacing desks apart in actual classrooms.

“With so much else changing and so much else being different and it’s so long that we’ve been apart, it’s just very exciting to come back together,” said Dr. Jamie Wernet.

Dr. Wernet is the Director of Learning, a parent of four students at Lansing Christian and a secondary math teacher.

High school students will wear masks for the entire school day and stay in one classroom, which means their teachers will come to them.

“That’s been a big change, as a teacher to think about is, we don’t really have our own classroom anymore,” explained Dr. Wernet. “So what does that look like to be mobile during the day? That’s been a challenge and it’s been fun for all of us to focus on what really matters and what we need to keep and what we need to change.”

The school building was built in 2000 and each classroom has its own HVAC systems. Elementary school students will not have to wear their mask all day.

Teachers are able to decide how to set things up for student safety and in the elementary wings that can mean spreading desks apart or using dividers like the ones in Betsy Jackson’s first-grade classroom.

The dividers are made using clear shower curtains and PVC pipes.

“Our solution is creating these dividers which allow us to have students near each,” explained Jackson. “We can have some partner work and we can have group collaboration but we also have more room around the classroom, for us to move and for me to move with them.”

When asked if the dividers may be distracting for six and seven-year-old students, Jackson responded with, “Typically in first grade we sit at tables. I am very accustomed to teaching my students at tables, I’ve been doing it for 25 years,” she continued.

“To go to desks is really kind of a big deal for me, but I love to create a sense of being in a community in my classroom so this is just like being at a table,” said Jackson. “It’s actually an even neater way to be in a group, to work together, to have them collaborating and to make more space in the classroom.”

Hofman says making the decision to re-open has to do with what Lansing Christian stands for.

“The mission of Christian education is about the formation of the whole student and we believe that’s best done in person, in community, through forming meaningful relationships between students and teachers,” Hofman explained. “That’s really important in the ‘Why’ we’re back in school, because safety is big and broad.”

Lansing Christian says they are hiring a school nurse and have a plan to go fully online if need be. They say if a student tests positive for coronavirus they will follow all CDC guidelines.