Shrine Catholic Schools in Royal Oak announced Wednesday that it will use Emagine Royal Oak’s auditoriums as extra classrooms as part of its hybrid model for the 2020-21 school year.
Under Shrine’s plan, students in grades seven through 12 will be divided into two groups, A-L and M-Z, depending on the first letter of their last name. Those groups will alternate between in-person days and virtual learning days.
Starting Monday, those students will have the option on virtual learning days of doing their online classes either from home or from inside the Royal Oak multiplex.
The move comes as school systems across the country are grappling with how to maintain safe learning environments amid a continuing public health crisis.
Shrine Catholic Schools is
renting the space from Emagine Royal Oak, which remains closed under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The school did not contact the state about using the theater for the plan, according to Christine Renner, the Shrine parish marketing and communications director.
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The school will provide staffers to handle security, supervise students and assist them with things like logging into class.
According to James Mio, principal of Shrine Academy and Shrine High School, everyone from assistant principals to parish workers will be pitching in to help.
Mio said roughly 10 of the site’s 13 screening rooms will be utilized. Students will be required to wear masks and maintain social distancing. They will connect to their classes individually through laptops and, sometimes, as a group through the actual movie screens in the auditoriums.
Emagine Royal Oak will provide Wi-Fi access and do the overall cleaning at night.
Movie theaters, which have been shut down for more than five months in much of the Lower Peninsula, are among the last remaining businesses waiting for the state’s OK to reopen. In mid-June, cinemas in the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan got the greenlight to resume screenings with limited capacity.
On Tuesday, during a news
briefing, Whitmer held firm to her pandemic precautions for movie theaters and gyms. But she indicated she’s looking closely at the matter and was going to “follow the science.”
Mio said the Emagine Royal Oak alternative is aimed particularly at parents who may be concerned about leaving their children alone at home.
“We have those families that are barely able to make tuition payments, dual-parent, dual-working homes. They both have to manage that and watch their kids and hope that their kids are successful. We’re giving this to our families free of charge. We want them to know they have this option.”
Shrine’s elementary school classes will be totally in-person and use co-horting, which keeps groups of students in the same room all day.
“We’re just trying to be creative,” said Mio. “Schools are doing that all over the country. We’re trying to provide the safety that all of our students and families so sorely crave and want, but at the same time giving them the hope that good things are happening.”
In July, the idea of using movie theaters for school purposes was floated by Cory Jacobson, the owner of Phoenix Theatres in Livonia, Wayne and Monroe.
Jacobson put out a news release about the possibility of turning multiplex auditoriums into temporary classrooms. He sent out 300 letters to educators in Michigan and in Iowa and Massachusetts, where he also owns theaters.
Phoenix spokesman Tom Lang said the idea was shared nationwide within the theater industry, but no schools have signed up to use the Phoenix Theatres so far.
Emagine’s Glantz had a run-in with the state shutdown orders in June, when he put in motion plans
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