Schools Extend All-Virtual Learning into January

Three Rivers Community Schools (TRCS) announced this afternoon that all school buildings will remain closed to in-person instruction into January. In response to a pandemic health order issued earlier this month by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), TRCS began fully conducting instruction for all in-person and hybrid students through online streaming. That closure was scheduled to last through the expiration of the HHS order, which occurs on December 8.

However, in a letter issued to parents Tuesday afternoon, TRCS Superintendent Ron Moag said in recent conversations with the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency (BHSJ), it has become apparent that the daily rate of new COVID-19 cases in St. Joseph County has grown. Moag said the county’s current, five-day average of new cases, taken from November 26 through 30, is 43 cases per day. “This will more than likely continue to be the case right through the holiday season,” Moag said.

In light of those statistics, Moag said, TRCS consulted further with BHSJ staff, with the TRCS’ District Wide Return to Learn Task Team, and the Board of Education. “We have made the difficult decision to extend our K-12 remote learning through the end of the (first) semester,” Moag said, which occurs on January 22, 2021.

“We understand the hardship that school closure places on our families, as well as the social and emotional impact it may have on our students,” Moag said. “We will continue to provide the support necessary for all of our students to be successful.”

There will be accommodations for various needs at school buildings, Moag said. “We will continue to have limited staff in each building to respond to issues and questions that arise during this time,” he said. “School will be accessible to staff, EL students, Special Education students, and students with no home internet service on a limited basis.” TRCS meal distribution will also continue through the same time period, occurring from 11 a.m. to noon on Mondays and Wednesdays at Three Rivers High School.

Moag said TRCS will continue to provide parents and students with updates “as we work through what is truly uncharted territory. I know this is a time of great uncertainty, which can be especially trying on children who are used to the routine of the school year.” Moag said the decision to extend virtual learning occurred through health and school partners who “are working intently to do what is right and best for our children and our community.”

“There are no easy decisions,” Moag said, “only decisions that we believe are being made with safety and health of our students and staff in mind.”

Watershed Voice will provide continued updates as they become available.

Dave Vago is a writer and columnist for Watershed Voice. A Philadelphia native with roots in Three Rivers, Vago is a planning consultant to history and community development organizations and is the former Executive Director of the Three Rivers DDA/Main Street program.