Marion releases learning options, still working on its return plan

Marion Board of Education members, from left, Greg Salisbury and Ryan Raymond discuss district business during a special board meeting on Aug. 3. Marion Public Schools is still working on completing its full return to school plan but like many other districts, it recently released its learning pathways for the upcoming school year.

MARION — Marion Public Schools is still working on completing its full return to school plan but like many other districts, it recently released its learning pathways for the upcoming school year.

Like other districts, Marion will have a virtual pathway as well as one offering face-to-face learning opportunities when students return to school, according to Marion Superintendent Chris Arrington. Also similar to offerings by other districts, Arrington said they will offer a hybrid pathway that includes virtual when needed and face-to-face learning opportunities.

"We decided at the 9-12 level we are doing the whole school model with Michigan Virtual. Our teachers will get trained to use the Michigan Virtual curriculum and learning management system," he said. "We also are proud to have face-to-face coming back five days a week if a parent wants to."

He said the virtual option now allows families the ability to continue to attend Marion instead of having to attend a different virtual academy. It also allows families to continue to have the teaching staff they know and trust.

Although internet access is still an issue for the district, Arrington said there is a plan in place to help with that.

A survey the district did earlier this spring showed that two-thirds of the district's students didn't have reliable access to high-speed internet. That means, those students either had access to hot-spot technology but limited data or no access whatsoever.

To help, the district purchased several Mifi devices from Verizon. The devices are located at Dighton Store, Redding Township Hall, Middle Branch Township Hall, Middle Branch Store, Highland Township Hall, and the Wesleyan Church on 70th Avenue. To connect, choose the "Marion" Connection" and the password is "GoEagles." The hotspots can accommodate up to 15 users.

While the Michigan Virtual is what high school students will be using, Arrington said the district is currently vetting a virtual solution for K-8 students from Pearson.

At a special board meeting on Aug. 3, the board discussed the district's plan for reopening. While the board voted to accept a tentative agreement with the teacher's union that includes a 2% cut in pay to help alleviate budget woes, it also includes starting school later than the current Aug. 24 date.

Instead, the district would begin classes on Sept. 2 to allow teachers more time to train with the virtual options the district will be using. Starting classes on Sept. 2 also would push the last day of school to June 9. Questions, however, were raised regarding the start of instruction at the Wexford-Missaukee Career Tech Center.

The CTC's first day is Aug. 31 and some board members questioned if that would mean Marion needs to start on Aug. 31. More information was needed and it will likely be addressed at the board's regular meeting scheduled for Aug. 11. 

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