More Michigan schools ditch in-person classes as staffers get sick in Covid spike

With Michigan COVID-19 cases on the rise, students have not been the only ones affected in school districts, officials say.

"We knew if the uptick in our community continued to go up it would impact our staffing and that's what we saw," said Supt. Rich Machesky, Troy School District.

Now some school districts in Oakland County are returning to online learning.

"When we closed we had four buildings that had active cases," said Deanna Barash, assistant supt. West Bloomfield Schools. "We had north of 30 staff members in quarantine and we had innumerable students not from exposure in school, but just outside the community."

It was the impacted staff members, some infected with the virus and others forced to quarantine - that partially led to a return to online learning for Troy Schools.

"Without staff, it's hard for us to accommodate students and make sure to bring the level of instruction,"  Machesky said.

But the return to online learning comes as the Oakland County Health Division made key changes to its COVID-19 screening and reporting guidelines.

Some changes include no longer accepting an alternate diagnosis like an allergy note to return after a student has been sent home or stays home with possible COVID-related symptoms.  The changes go into effect Monday and will impact school districts when they return from online learning.

"We in the Troy School District have been going above the guidelines, to begin with, so a shift to those guidelines is really not a problem for us at all," Machesky said.

The week of November 23rd Troy Schools will reevaluate its online status and decide to remain online or return to in-person as for West Bloomfield the plan is to return after Thanksgiving on November 30th. 

For now, these school districts are working to keep staff and students motivated.

"We are checking in with our students, we are checking in with our staff, we are working on some social and emotional learning and to make sure we keep everyone engaged," said Barash.

And as these school administrators work to keep students and staff safe they have a message for lawmakers. 

"Support us and not have so much in-fighting among themselves about what is really a public health issue," Barash said. "It is a shame this has become much more about a political discussion than a public health discussion."