Detroit-Area School Brings Students Back To Campus For Class In Tents

(WWJ) While a majority of metro Detroit students started the unprecedented 2020 school year at home, one local school opted instead to take it outside. 

Across the campus at University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods, they've set up tents to serve as outdoor classrooms.

"Think of the type one might use in the backyard for a graduation party, spread out across the schools grounds — 27 in all," reported WWJ's Jon Hewett, who got a look at the arrangement on Tuesday. 

Like at all schools and districts in Michigan, administrators at University Liggett had been looking for a options under the governor's Return to Learn plan to bring students safely back into the classroom amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Bart Bronk, Head of School for the Liggett lower, middle and upper schools, says class time will be weather-dependent.

"Obviously we're not gonna do that if it's unsafe; if there's lightening in the area, if it's a downpour like we had this morning, if it's frigid when we get into the winter," Bronk said. "But to the extent to which it's temperate outside and the conditions are safe, I think a lot of our teachers will chose to conduct lessons and activities outside." 

"Lunch as well," he added.

Given the school's campus and enrollment size, with only around 600 students in grades pre-K through 12, Bronk expects the outdoor plan to work well. 

Students will not be required, however, to appear in person if they or their parents are not comfortable just yet. 

"We have wired the tents for wi-fi," Bronk explained, "so that our Digital Pathway students that are choosing to remain at home can be Zoomed in, regardless of whether they're in the classroom or in the tent."

"But the idea is to bring everybody, and obviously we're going to learn as we go," he said. "There are elements that we've learned already, including that during faculty meetings we made great use of the tents and realized that this is yellow jacket (wasp) season."

Despite that downside, Bronk said — at least so far — the kids seem to like it. 

While Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her panel set up safety rules and regulations for schools to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, the state left it up to districts whether to bring students back in person, to offer a hybrid model, or to begin the 2020 school year with virtual learning,