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Local school districts release plans for return to classroom

COVID-19 pandemic sharpens digital divide for rural students
Posted at 2:07 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 07:38:33-04

School districts across West Michigan are building plans for the 2020-2021 school year, with contingencies in place should the number of coronavirus cases make a sudden increase.

FOX 17 is compiling a list of the plans made by districts in our area. Check out the information below.

Grand Rapids Public Schools

GRPS said parent and staff survey data showed "the highest level of support for virtual learning."

The recommendation is to start school on Aug. 25, with "continuous assessment of the plan and preparations to shift to hybrid or 100% in person."

High school athletics would continue as planned in accordance with the executive order and guidelines by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA).

"The safety, health, and well-being of our students, families and staff has been at the forefront of all decision making regarding the start of school," GPRS said.

GRPS is also seeking continued flexibility and support from the state on average daily attendance, student count, instructional days and hours and more.

The district still needs to negotiate the proposed plan's "fine details," John Helmholdt, executive director of communications and external affairs at GRPS, told FOX 17.

Helmholdt told FOX 17 the final plan and recommendations will be made public on or before the Aug. 5 at the district's Academic Achievement Committee meeting.

East Grand Rapids Public Schools

The Pioneers expect to start the school year with all students physically in class, though the middle and high school will be divided in half to allow for social distancing. Masks will be mandatory for staff and students.

The district is clustering 6th through 12th grade students into two groups, named after the school's colors, gold and blue. The gold group will attend classes in-person in the morning. The blue group will do the same in the afternoon. Virtual learning sessions will fill in the remaining class time. On Wednesdays, all students will attend classes virtually.

Once the district has approval, middle and high school students will return to full-time in-person learning.

Kindergarten through 5th grade classes will be isolated from one another, although a recess break at lunch will still be held. Lunch will be held inside classrooms.

East Grand Rapids is also offering a completely virtual education for any students at the request of their parents. Once enrolled, a student is committed to virtual learning for the full semester.

Students and their parents must choose a learning option by August 5. East Grand Rapids' first day of classes is on August 24. To read the full plan, click here.

Grand Rapids Catholic Diocese

The schools of the Diocese of Grand Rapids will open in-person learning to all students. Students will be allowed to switch to virtual options as needed.

Catholic schools are expanding the use of Google's classroom technologies, and students who stay home will be able to join their classmates remotely.

Masks will be required for all staff and students in K-12 schools, unless they have a medical waiver. Students from kindergarten to 5th grade will be allowed to remove masks while in the classroom, and pre-school children will not be required to wear masks.

Daily temperature checks will be required for staff members. School buildings are off-limits to anyone who is not a student or staff member. Parents may be permitted entrance by administrators.

Indoor weight rooms and physical training facilities are closed. All large-scale spectator events planned for inside venues are canceled. Athletic competitions could be canceled, if the MHSAA recommends so.

To read the full plan, click here.

Kentwood Public Schools:

Kentwood Public Schools will begin the academic year Aug. 24 with remote learning for all students for the first two weeks, with an option to switch to in-person learning after Labor Day.

The option to return to in-person learning will only be possible if Kent County remains in Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan.

Those first two weeks will be used to train students and staff on the safety protocols and cleaning procedures that will be in place during in-person learning, the district said Tuesday.

It will also help everyone learn best practices for remote learning as well as provides time for Chromebooks to be delivered to students needing a device in case in-person learning gets shut down again, the district said.

Read the full plan here.