Okemos schools respond to COVID, backpack concerns

News

OKEMOS, Mich. (WLNS) – Okemos High School Interim Principal Andrea Hallead released a letter on Thursday responding to student concerns on COVID-19 and the banning of backpacks in school.

COVID-19

The school announced that they’ve had 29 COVID-19 cases at the school this week.

“We acknowledge the increased cases of Covid-19 in our community has created fear and anxiety for some of our students and families,” Hallead said.

According to Hallead, Okemos Schools is consulting the Ingham County Health Department regarding the best course of action on the rise of COVID-19 cases in the area.

Okemos schools have been averaging 88% attendance rates this week, which is consistent with the attendance rates of winter months in previous years, the school said.

Hallead said the school will continue to encourage vaccination and quarantining as well as continue mitigation methods such as masking, social distancing, and air filtration.

The letter stressed that students must stay home if they are sick, but also encouraged students to come to class if they are well.

The letter responded to posts on social media that called for a student walkout due to COVID-19. The letter emphasized that if less than 75% of students are in attendance, a day is not counted and must be made up later in the school year.

BACKPACKS

Prior to winter break, Okemos Schools banned backpacks due to safety concerns in the wake of the Oxford school shooting.

The district received a “large volume” of communication on the ban and will be releasing an update in the future.

Hallead will be meeting with Okemos High School leadership teams, specifically student council officers, the principal’s advisory group and student representatives to the board of education.

The meeting will cover:

  • Travel time to lockers
  • Students adjusting to new organization system for class materials
  • Concerns regarding cell phone storage
  • Student and staff safety regarding means to conceal weapons
  • Students with documented medical needs
  • Privacy and availability of hygiene products for menstruating students

“Due to the no backpack rule, kids are having to go to their lockers between every class. They only have 7 mins to use the bathroom, walk sometimes across the school to get to a class, etc. So now they are passing each other in the halls more frequently and having a higher chance of a getting exposed to COVID,” one anonymous OHS student told 6 News.” It is rumored that yesterday there were hundreds of absent students. Some due to Covid positive but most due to the exposure concerns mentioned above.”

Hallead’s full letter can be read below:

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