School districts adjust as Whitmer closes schools

Posted at 10:25 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 07:41:42-04

WEST MICHIGAN — School districts across the state are now trying to figure out what’s next and how they can move forward with remote learning.

Rockford Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike shibler put things into perspective, saying if the district was trying to go to a full online program, it would take about a year to plan it, test it, then make any tweaks. Now they’re doing that all in just days.

“It’s really going to be a real challenge for school districts across Michigan.” Dr. Shibler told FOX 17.

Rockford is a district with 8,000 students in 13 buildings. Those sites are now closed, and students have been learning from home for a couple of weeks. Per Gov. Whitmer’s new order, that’s where students will stay for the rest of the school year.

Online learning can be a challenge for roughly 500 students in the Rockford district who may not all have internet access.

Shibler says they will be working with kids to get their education to them, no matter what. “It’ll be our responsibility, and we will do it, to make sure, as we move into the future, that ... paper and pencil type packets of information and instructional materials will be available to those students who do not have access.”

“You’re going to have to find a way to educate all the children.”

"So I think districts are going to have to be really creative,” says Charyn Hain, a lawyer specializing in education, "and making sure that (districts) are reaching all of their student population and doing that in a manner that provides (students) all equal access."

For Rockford, those materials will be sent directly to families starting Wednesday, April 15, after spring break.

The new approach continues to evolve.

Teachers have already been connecting with students: reading books live, creating video tutorials, and sending inspirational messages. Teachers will visit their schools to come up with lesson plans. Custodians will clean and sanitize the rooms. And food service will stay open for families that need it.

Holland and Grand Rapids Public Schools are working on similar plans.

“We hope to provide you with daily and weekly schedule that you will be able to follow at home," Holland Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Davis told students and parents. "We’ll be utilizing our website to help you navigate through what this looks like. For example, if you have a first grade student, you would see a first grade information tab that would be all inclusive of all the first grade across the district. The same for fifth grade and the same for algebra, so you’re not relying on information from several people across the district wondering what one building is doing in comparison to another.”

John Helmholdt of Grand Rapids Public Schools admitted there's a bit of a learning curve.

“In essence, we’re kind of building the plane as we’re flying it," he said. "As information comes, in we’re going to make mid-course adjustments as we roll out the plan and then we get feedback of what’s working what’s not working. We’re going to make those mid-course adjustments.”

No matter which district you’re in, all leaders say the same thing; have patience and grace and realize teachers are doing the best they can.

“There will be some challenges there," Helmholdt says, "but we’re gonna make sure it works.”

If students were on track to graduate, they will graduate. However, graduation ceremonies are still up in the air.