GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With the new year, brings a return to in-person learning for a lot of schools across West Michigan, but there are others who have been doing it with success since the start of the Fall semester.
We're talking about the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids. Other than when the state ordered all schools to remote learning back in November, these schools had 95% of their student bodies in-person.
"Superintendents, every single teacher, every single staff member, everyone's come together in order to make this work. And that's what's made it effective for us", said Dave Faber, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids.
"We thought the state roadmap was a great document that allowed us to create our living our mission and today's reality, which is our plan for Catholic schools, which calls for all of those important mitigation strategies, the social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing on a regular basis, sanitation, you know, we're doing all of these things."
And it's not easy when your district covers seven counties in West Michigan; 31 catholic schools, five high schools and 26 elementary.
"It's been quite a journey. But I'm very pleased. And I think that collaboration to where principals are meeting weekly together, you know, we have 30 to 40 people on the call and teachers were doing that all throughout this summer, you know, learning together", said Faber. Peter DeWitt is the Dean of Students at Catholic Central, and he said he could feel the energy with the students being back on campus.
"Even students coming back from Christmas break where nobody wants to be back in school, had a smile behind their mask, as you can see, you know, and they're just excited to be with their peers, one but also to be able to interact with their teachers, not through a zoom link and not through a screen. So there's a lot of just positive enthusiasm about being back in the building."
It's something Superintendent Faber hopes will continue through the end of the school year.
"We were leaning on each other a lot more than we ever did in the past. And that will be something to take with us as we hopefully emerge from COVID-19."
Superintendent Faber also pointed out that he's excited about his teachers being able to start getting the COVID-19 vaccine this week. He says it will just add to their ability to stay in-person and keep everyone safe.