2020-21 Return to School FAQ

Questions may be addressed directly to your building principal.

Individual building parent “town hall” Zoom meetings were held to answer building-specific questions.  The meetings were recorded and are posted on our website.


In Person Instruction Questions

Social Distancing

How would social distancing occur if the majority of parents opted for in-person learning?

  • Social distancing will occur to the extent feasible and as outlined by the Return to School Roadmap. Students will face the front of the classroom and will be required to wear masks. 

Will middle and high school students remain in the same classroom all day?

  • Middle school and high school students will move between classes according to their schedules while adhering to safety guidelines. 

How will lunch work?

  • Students will pick up lunches and take them to designated locations. Elementary students will eat in their classrooms. Secondary students will eat in spaces as available throughout the building which could include the lunch room, hallways, and classrooms following safety guidelines as outlined by the Return to School Roadmap.

How will social distancing be maintained with busing?

  • Students will have assigned seats with two students per seat. Windows will be open, weather permitting, and students will be required to wear masks at all times.

When social distancing cannot be achieved, are there thoughts of partitions being used or bigger areas such as the gym for classrooms? Will students have partitions around their desks?

  • As many spaces as possible will be utilized throughout the building, including gyms, empty classrooms and outside spaces to provide for social distancing. Students will face forward when seated in desks.

It sounds like there will be some staggering of students for in/out of building movements.  Does that mean different start or ending times to limit hallway congestion?  

  • Individual buildings are developing plans which limit, to the extent possible, hallways congestion. During passing time, students go directly to class and not be allowed to linger in the hallway.

What course of action is taken for the students who do not adhere to social distancing?

  • Routines and expectations will be taught and reinforced. If it becomes a pattern of behavior, it will be dealt with as insubordination. Progressive discipline will be instituted, up to and including requiring the student to move to online instruction.

Masks/Facial Coverings

Are children of all ages required to wear masks and are masks required at all times of the day?

  • Students K-12 and staff will be required to wear masks throughout the school day with the exception of those who cannot medically tolerate them.  Mealtimes will also be an exception.

What is the definition of a facial covering?  

  • A facial covering is cloth material that covers the nose and mouth. Facial coverings may be secured to the head or simply wrapped around the lower face. They can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton or linen, and may be factory-made or made by hand.

Are face shields acceptable alternatives to mask?

  • No. The CDC does not recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for cloth face coverings.  However, a face shield that covers the eyes, nose and mouth can be worn in addition to a cloth mask if desired. 

Can parents “opt-out” their child from the facial covering requirement, but still send them to school in-person? Who determines whether or not a student/staff member can not medically tolerate a facial covering? 

  • Documentation from a licensed physician is required.

What recourse is there if students/families openly refuse to wear masks and they have no documentation of being unable to medically tolerate a facial covering?

  • If it becomes a pattern of behavior, it will be dealt with as insubordination. Progressive discipline will be instituted, up to and including requiring the student to move to online instruction.

Are students required to wear masks in Phys Ed? Band?

  • Band and Phys Ed classes will take place outside to the extent possible. Band students will wear masks unless unable to do so while playing an instrument. Phys Ed classes will adhere to MHSAA guidance on masking. 

Daily Routine/Classes

What will an in-person instruction schedule look like?  Will it be 5 days a week and a normal length school day? 

  • Yes. The in-person option will follow the normal schedule. 

Will the middle school elective courses remain the same?

  • As always, in-person electives will be determined based on student/staff numbers

Will students who opt in to in-person learning be permitted to switch to online learning during the semester?

  • Moving from in-person to online learning during the semester may be considered on a case by case basis if online staff is available. 

Extra Curricular

Will the PMS sports schedule be changed to more local competitions?  Are coaches going to adhere to the guidelines as well and who will be checking with them to make sure they are doing that? How will after school activities and sports be handled as far as supervision for those staying after school waiting for activities to begin? 

  • Sports will adhere to MHSAA guidelines. Other district-sponsored after school activities will adhere to school guidelines.

Other Safety Measures

Will kids be outside whenever weather permits or is all recess inside?

  • Students will be outside for recess whenever the weather permits.

Will parents still be able to volunteer in their child’s classroom/school?

  • We will not be allowing volunteers in the school buildings at this time.  

Will students have their own materials or will they be sharing materials?

  • To the extent possible, students will be using their own materials.  In the case where there may be sharing of materials, they will be sanitized in between each student's use.

Will extra time be allotted for hand washing, not just sanitizer?

  • Times will be built in for handwashing and hand sanitizing

Will grades and classes intermingle during recess, or will they be kept separate?

  • Building plans will outline recess procedures. Classes will be separated to the extent possible.

Will there be any field trips, assemblies, fundraisers, etc?

  • Not at this time.

How will students receive their schooling if they have to be quarantined? 

  • Students will continue with online learning through the Learning Management System that they were using in school.

Online Instruction Questions

Online Teachers

Will the online teacher be a teacher from my child’s building/grade level?

  • Staffing plans will be determined based on the number of students enrolling in online learning. The online teacher may or may not be a teacher from your child’s building or grade level but will be a teacher who is hired by Public Schools of Petoskey and is certified to teach the grade level/content area.

If we utilize online learning for the first semester and return to school for the second semester will the students have the same teacher for the second semester? 

  • Your child will likely not have the same teacher online as he/she would when accessing in-person instruction.

If I enroll my children virtually, will they have a place at their current school when we return?

  • Every effort will be made to keep students in their home schools but it can not be guaranteed based on class sizes and staffing. 

Will the online students have the ability to schedule in person time with the teachers? Will there be an orientation where the students and parents can meet their teacher in person prior to when online teaching will begin?

  • Interaction between online teachers and students will take place electronically.

Online Instructional Model

Can dual enrolled students opt to do online high school and in person college, or hybrid college?

  • Students can enroll in online for high school class and then adhere to the options provided by the college.

Will the student be required to use district provided tech (laptop or Chromebook) or will they be allowed to utilize tech available at home?

  • At home technology can be utilized.

Will kindergarteners be required to do live instruction daily?

  • All students accessing online learning will need to engage in certain portions of the online school day that will be “live” instruction.  Additional time will be provided for independent work.  Materials for at-home practice of skills will also be provided, including paper and pencil activities.

If we choose the in person school option and then school shuts down and goes to all online will it be a fairly smooth transition for her to online?  

  • The same Learning Management System (Canvas) and core curriculum (Accelerate Education) will be utilized in both online and in-person instruction so we anticipate a smooth transition should all students need to return to distance learning.

Will the online teacher be instructing from the classroom?

  • Online teachers will be instructing remotely.  Staffing plans and expectations will be outlined prior to the start of school.

Will there be a set schedule for online participation expectations, given to parents in advance?

  • Any synchronous (live) teaching time will take place between 8:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Students will have opportunities to complete asynchronous work outside of those hours.

If a student gets Title I help will that still be available to them if the on-line option is chosen?

  • Interventions will be provided by online staff.

Will the online option be more rigorous and robust than it was in the spring?

  • Yes.  Online learning will mirror more closely to a typical school day.  Instruction will be both “live” with a Public Schools of Petoskey teacher and will require independent work, as well.  This learning will be much more rigorous and robust as compared to the remote learning that was offered this spring.  The online school day “live” instruction will likely occur between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

What will special education services look like online?

  • Specific times throughout the day will be scheduled to provide special education services.  These services may be individually, in a small group, or in a co-taught “live” platform.  Students with related services (e.g. speech, OT, PT, school social work, etc.) will receive these services online to the extent feasible, as well.  IEPs will need to be reviewed to address current needs and access to the curriculum.

As the kids have been out of school since March, I started a homeschool program with them over these months. It is going well and I likely may continue this program in the fall. Will Petoskey schools be allowing homeschool children to play sports and/or participate in band or other activities?

  • If you are planning to unenroll your children from Petoskey to homeschool, they can enroll in up to two electives (including band) but they cannot participate in extracurricular activities (including sports). This is a Michigan Department of Education/Michigan High School Athletic Association rule that schools have to continue to abide by at this time. If you choose to keep your children enrolled in the Public Schools of Petoskey and opt for the online program we are offering, they can participate in extracurricular activities and in-person band, choir, and CTE programs.

What technology will be available to students? 

  • Hot spots and laptops will be provided to online students as needed. Additional information will be provided following to those choosing the online option.

Will students at middle and high school be able to combine a online and in person schedule? 

  • Students need to choose one or the other, with the exception of being able to participate in-person band, choir or CTE at the high school level. Transportation for online students to in-person courses will not be provided by the district.

Do we have any information yet as to what options will or will not be available to the kids in the early college program as far as the college classes go?

  • Not yet. Counselors are in communication with NCMC staff. 

For elementary kids that are online learning until January, how will they be integrated back into school? Will the kids be at the same place in the curriculum as the in school kids when they come back in January? 

  • Online and in-person classes will follow the same pacing and utilize the same curriculum. 

Do you have an idea of how much time a student will need to be in front of the computer each day or time increments.

  • This will vary by grade level. Parents should plan for up to 4 hours per day, consisting of a combination of online and offline work.

When the flu season comes about will the school go online?

  • The district will follow the state directives for school closings.

Also if we were to choose online classes would we be able to transition back to in person classes anytime we felt safe to do so?

  • The online choice requires a minimum one semester commitment

Will there be any tools provided to parents to help make this work if they choose the online option?

  • Training modules to support utilization of the online learning management system will be provided to parents. Online teachers and PSP technology staff will also be available to support. 

Will there be the option to meet with counselors and teachers one on one for extra help if needed?  Either in person or online?

  • Counseling support will be available for both online and in person students 

Will live classes online have interaction with other students and teachers during class?

  • Online students will meet electronically with other online students.

If online school is chosen, can a high school student take in-person vocational ed classes? For example, auto II or welding?

  • CTE courses will be offered in-person only. If students are not able to come to school for CTE classes, they will be scheduled into alternative online elective courses.

How would middle school students participate in electives if they choose online learning?

  • There will be online elective courses available to middle school students which may or may not match in-person offerings.

Screening, Testing and Reporting

Multiple questions were asked regarding Screening, Testing and Reporting. Below are the sections from the PSP plan regarding these topics:


  • A copy of our screening and exposure plan will be submitted to the County Health Department.  This plan will be reviewed monthly with the District Pandemic Response Team and the Health Department along with the status of any referrals from the prior month.
  • The district will fully cooperate with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan regarding implementation of screening protocols for students and staff.
  • Each school building will identify a remote and secluded room to serve as an isolation area and will identify a staff person to care for students who become ill and present with COVID-19 symptoms at school.
  • Persons caring for students in the isolation area will be equipped with an N95 mask or other necessary PPE.
  • A safety protocol will be posted and readily available for staff who are responsible for supervising students who need to access the isolation area.
  • Students who become ill and are placed in an isolation room will be issued a mask to wear if their current mask has become unusable until they are picked up and removed from campus, unless they are medically unable to tolerate the wearing of a mask.
  • Custodians will clean and disinfect the isolation room before and after each use, following CDC cleaning guidelines and using EPA Approved cleaning products.
  • Staff who become ill with COVID-19 symptoms will be sent home or to the appropriate medical or testing facility. They will wear a mask until such time as they are off campus.  Follow CDC and local health department guidance prior to return.  Sub plans will be outlined to follow Accelerate.
  • Any student who is sent home from school with COVID-19-like symptoms should be kept home until they have completely recovered according to CDC guidelines and local health department guidance.
  • Students with seasonal allergies, asthma, exercise-induced asthma, or other medical conditions mimicking COVID-19 should disclose that diagnostic information to their school principal prior to the start of school. Principals will work closely with students and parents in these situations to ensure health and safety, as well as continuity of learning opportunities.
  • The above conditions will be indicated in PowerSchool.
  • Staff will conduct daily self-examinations, including a temperature check, prior to coming to work.  If they exhibit any respiratory symptoms, or have a temperature of 100.4 or higher, they should stay home. Follow guidelines from Health Department or primary care physician.
  • Parents are encouraged to check their child’s temperature at home every morning. Students with a temperature of 100.4 or higher should stay home. Follow guidelines from Health Department or primary care physician.
  • Parents are encouraged to monitor their children for symptoms of COVID-19. The presence of any symptoms, including cough, sore throat, severe headache, diarrhea, or shortness of breath, should prompt the family to keep the student home from school and follow up with their primary care provider.



  • The district will cooperate with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan regarding implementation of screening and testing protocols for students and staff.
  • Symptomatic students and staff will need to follow all CDC and Health Department guidelines before returning to the school. 
  • In identifying any possible staff or student cases of COVID-19, the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, staff, students, and families will be notified immediately by the district.  This notification will be made while maintaining confidentiality consistent with the Americans with Disabilities act (ADA) and other applicable federal and state privacy laws.
  • In the event of any laboratory positive or clinically diagnosed case of COVID-19, the Health Department of Northwest Michigan will initiate contact tracing. Anyone who was within close contact of the case (as identified above) will be asked to self-quarantine for up to 14 days after exposure. 
  • Staff will be provided with guidance and training regarding confidentiality laws and statutes protecting student and staff privacy related to health information. 
  • The district will not release the names of any staff who was diagnosed with COVID-19, as this is protected health information. The school district will only acknowledge a positive case and discourages parents and community members from engaging in discussions related to the identity of the individual(s) diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Staff who have been confirmed with a case of COVID-19 will return to the workplace only after they are no longer infectious. Local health officials will provide instruction about their return to work, using up to date CDC guidelines for this determination.
  • Classrooms, buses, and common areas that were inhabited by an individual with a confirmed case of COVID-19 will be cleaned using proper cleaners, by custodial staff equipped with proper PPE. Smaller areas, whenever possible, will be closed for 24 hours before allowing staff or students to return to the area.