Howell K-8 district switches to full remote; Superintendent calls it a reset

HOWELL – Pupils in the Howell K-8 School District have switched to fully remote instruction after having the option for in-person instruction since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The fully remote instruction began on Dec. 16 and is scheduled to continue through Jan. 8. Students who have been receiving in-person instruction may be permitted to return to their school beginning Jan. 11.

Superintendent of Schools Joseph Isola announced the switch to fully remote instruction on Dec. 15. Isola said he believes in-person instruction is important, but he called the move to fully remote instruction necessary.

“This is extremely unfortunate, but necessary news I deliver to you. It is not something I wanted to do. I think everyone understands my commitment to in-person instruction and that I believe it is what is best for children for their social and emotional well-being, and for their academic needs, all while maintaining virtual (remote) options for families that feel more comfortable in that setting,” Isola said in a message to the community’s parents.

The move to fully remote instruction “is in the best interest of our school district. All along I said I would make the decision that is best for our students and staff and I am absolutely confident this (change) is what is best for our school district at this point,” he said.

The superintendent said he is committed to resuming in-person instruction on Jan. 11 forΒ  students whose parents have selected that option.

“This timeframe will allow our community to hit the reset button, to make sure we are getting healthy and preparing to re-enter school buildings that are clean, healthy and safe environments for our students,” Isola said.

The superintendent said there were about 4,500 children attending Howell’s schools, plus 700 educational staff members. He said recent coronavirus concerns have led to more than 1,000 of those individuals being excluded from entering a school.

“When you are talking about over 1,000 (people) being excluded, that is a huge percentage (of the in-school number). It becomes difficult to manage that and to make sure we have professionals and support staff in place to meet the needs of the children. I think this reset moment will be good for our community,” Isola said.

Isola said keeping the schools open for as long as administrators were able to do that “has really been a community effort and we should be proud of that. While I am disappointed to deliver this news (going to fully remote instruction), I want to really confirm it is necessary.”