Maybe this won’t seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a portent of the future. It’s not a lot of students or teachers, but it signifies what’s coming down the pike.

A small alternative school in Avondale, Michigan, is going to be converted to a full-time virtual school.

All seven teachers will be replaced.

The district pretends that the decision was for the sake of the students, but in reality, it’s to save money. The district and the state of Michigan just could not afford to educate these students anymore so they settled on a cheap strategy. The kids will get an inferior digital education with no personal interaction with real teachers, but, hey, the state can’t afford to give them a real education.

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week – but, for the seven teachers at Avondale Academy, they just found out they’re being laid off.

On Monday, the Avondale Board of Education voted to close Avondale Academy and to restructure it as the Avondale Diploma and Careers Institute Virtual School – a fully online alternative high school.

Social studies teacher Paul Sandy said he is horrified by the board’s decision. He created the petition “Save Avondale Academy” and, as of Tuesday evening, it has more than 500 online signatures.

“It’s a central truth that all children deserve real teachers – not virtual teachers who can’t see them, talk to them, hand them fruit snacks out of their big Trader Joe’s bag, buy them art supplies or talk to them out in the hallway between classes,” said Sandy. “All students deserve an education that is hands-on and involves physical activity, social interaction and authentic, real learning…”

As part of the decision, the Diploma and Careers Institute will provide all Avondale Academy students with their own Chromebook, and a resource center would be open Monday through Thursday, staffed with an adult mentor, for students who need in-person support. There would continue to be opportunities for breakfast and lunch, transportation and counseling for the students.

According to Frank Lams, assistant superintendent for Financial Services, this decision will save the district a substantial amount of money.

“The district would pick up 20 percent of the enrollment (from per-pupil state funding) and the net revenue. DCI would pick up the cost for the counselors and mentors, as well as all the hardware and software necessary for the program. So, there’s a shift of about $180,000 positive. This is based on 115 pupil enrollment for the Academy,” said Lams.

The online board meeting attracted nearly 150 attendees – a record number for the board. Teachers, parents, students and experts from Michigan universities and organizations all joined together to argue for the future of the 115 students at Avondale Academy.

Paul Sandy, the social studies teacher at Avondale Academy, wrote this about the school in his petition to save the school:

Avondale Academy is an alternative public high school in the Avondale School District that serves approximately 113 students from Pontiac, Auburn Hills, and Rochester Hills, Michigan. It is intended for students who have either struggled to succeed in a mainstream high school or for students who want a smaller school setting with more social-emotional support and a community style education approach.

Avondale Academy currently provides students with a positive educational experience through social-emotional supports to students, mentor groups that reinforce community norms, creativity through art and music endeavors, a mental health peer-to-peer group, project-based learning, and reading and math intervention. All of those things are made possible with teachers.

The board decided: These kids are expendable.