All Bessemer students now online
November 19, 2020
By CHARITY SMITH
Bessemer — Bessemer Area Schools has announced that all K-12 students will be learning remotely until Nov. 30 as a result of the order issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday.
According to Superintendent Dan Niemi the order mandated the closure of in-person high school classes until Dec. 9, but left the decision for the method of learning for K-8 students up to the district.
“It was a very difficult decision. Very, very difficult, because we know the kids need to be in school,” Niemi said. “We know that the teachers need to see the kids. We know that we need some sense of normalcy … but ultimately on Monday we decided after the report from the Western U.P. Health Department came back, that it was probably a good idea to not bring the K-8 back.”
He said that the health department informed them that there are 22 new cases of COVID-19 in Gogebic County and advised them that it was probably a good idea to keep the K-8 students out at least until the end of the month.
“The positive rates of COVID-19 are on the rise and it is fact being contracted by our elementary students,” Niemi and Mark Switzer, dean of students, wrote in a letter sent to district families.
Niemi said they will be re-evaluating the situation after Thanksgiving, but at this point it is only an additional five days of virtual learning for the younger students. Students in grades K-8 are expected to return to in-person learning on Monday, Nov. 30.
The BAS district had just returned to an in-person learning format on Monday following a closure of all schools in the Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District from Oct. 26-Nov.13. Niemi said that the two days of in person learning at the beginning of this week allowed them to not only see the kids, but get crucial learning materials to them in preparation for the return to a virtual format.
Niemi said that only about a quarter of the kids were estimated to have returned to in-person learning for the two day period. He said that they only had about 40 kids out of 200 at each school eating hot lunch.
“I think people, and parents, along with the community are a little skittish and nervous about sending their kids to school with this all going on and I feel for them,” he said. “I think we did what is in the best interest and safety of the community.”
The district has a limited supply of computers available for students to borrow, according to Niemi. Those needing to obtain a computer can contact the school.