Planning pays off as FlexTech High School off to a seamless start to school year

Summer planning at FlexTech High School-Brighton has paid off. All 223 students at this tuition-free public charter school started the academic year with a Chromebook and Internet access with the option to learn in-person or online. The school’s strict attention to safety guidelines even has some virtual students now choosing to learn in person. 

“We have been very impressed with the way FlexTech has handled this difficult school year situation,” said Marc Whiteman, the parents of a freshman at FlexTech. “We had planned on doing fully virtual classes this year, but we now feel comfortable enough that our son is going to start attending in person as well.”

Students learn about yoga as they practice some Yin poses. Pictured are Katie Schrock, yoga Instructor and Arianna Camacho-Hilla, student.

Principal Nick Wasmer attributes their successful start to staff collaboration and a safety-first mindset.

“Our staff worked incredibly hard throughout this summer to prepare for this school year,” Wasmer said. “We learned from our experience in the spring and made adjustments. We fine-tuned our virtual curriculum and set up our classrooms for synchronous in person and virtual teaching. We took our small school and made it even smaller with staggered days, staggered starts, and staggered lunches. This allows for adequate social distancing and frequent cleaning.”

Student Evelyn Klann plants bean plants in the Hoop House garden for outdoor STEM class.

All of this preparation has made a difference, Wasmer said. Students feel safe attending their classes because social distancing is possible in a small-school environment.

Alex Anderson, a freshman at FlexTech who chose the school because of its project-based learning model and welcoming environment, shared her perspective: “The staff has been following the safety precautions really well and they’ve been very patient and supportive of students adjusting to more online learning. You can tell that the teachers really want to teach the kids.”

When the shutdown occurred in March, the school’s already flexible infrastructure allowed students to work remotely both synchronously (in real time) and asynchronously (at their own pace). 

Aidan Franzzini, a senior at the school, agrees that FlexTech’s blended model set him up to succeed.

“I’ve started off the strongest I ever have,” he said. “I think the blended learning model is going pretty well. I prefer the structure of working remotely a couple of days a week so I can work at my own pace. I’m able to work more efficiently with this model.”

Additionally, FlexTech’s Advisory program, where students travel in cohorts with an “Advisor” who serves as a personal advocate, made connecting and relationship building a breeze during the shutdown. FlexTech’s student-centered cohort model continues to contribute to their success this fall. 

The Michigan Department of Education’s new COVID attendance legislation requires all schools to engage in weekly two-way communication with at least 75 percent of their students. In their first week, FlexTech High School connected with over 90 percent of its students, far surpassing the minimum requirement. 

The teachers at FlexTech High School agree that their hard work has been worth it.

“FlexTech was built for this crisis,” said Humanities teacher, Keith Jones. “We have been developing blended learning strategies for students since I started working here in 2012, and the practice is paying off so far during these first two weeks of school.”

The school is buzzing with enthusiasm and optimism. Wasmer is ready to take on this unique school year, saying, “I’m proud to lead a staff that has gone the extra mile to make this year happen for our students.”

And the students appreciate the focus on safety, too: “For students and families who are concerned about COVID, this is a great school. The teachers are taking everything very seriously and they are available to connect 1 on 1,” said senior Ruby Goldsworthy.

The school has a limited number of openings.  For more information, or to download an application, click here.

Students work on telling their personal narratives using photos, illustrations, and text in Humanities class. Pictures are Joe Lieberman, Humanities teacher; Justin Dallas and Alex Anderson, students.

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