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Family, school districts react to school year ending early

Posted at 8:01 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 20:16:20-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer officially announced Michigan schools are closed for the rest of the year and is requiring schools move to online instruction. The news has been expected for the past couple of days.

"Today, I'm signing an executive order to close school buildings for the remaining of the calendar year - the school year," Whitmer said at a press conference.

The announcement was met with disappointment from many students missing their friends and looking forward to certain milestones. Danyalle Campbell, who has four school-aged children in Caledonia Community Schools, says she applauds the governor's decision to put safety first. But she admits it's still disappointing.

"As much as we knew it was coming, it was still hard to hear that definitive answer," Campbell told FOX 17 via Zoom video call.

She posted a photo to Facebook of her son Mackean and his dog Max which illustrates the disappointment many children are likely feeling across the state.

Campbell asked her son, "What are you going to miss out on buddy?

"Greenfield Village," Mackean responded.

His mom explained, "It's a trip (to Dearborn) that they take in 3rd grade that his brothers and sister have taken, and he knew this was the year and so he didn't get to go this year and he's sad to not see his friends and goodbyes are hard and we didn't really get to say goodbye to teachers."

Teachers and their school districts are having to make adjustments of their own because the governor's also ordered each district to develop an alternative learning plan to continue education.

John Helmholdt, spokesperson for Grand Rapids Public Schools told FOX 17, "At this point, we're gearing up to make sure that we have our distance learning plan up and running by the end of this month."

He says this is uncharted territory, and that there will be hiccups along the way.

"We're kind of building the plane as we're flying it," he said.

"This is 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 just going to ask for patience and some grace," Helmholdt said.

Campbell says part of her challenge with distance learning is some of her kids are special needs and have individualized education programs (IEPs), but she says she is willing and ready to adjust.

"We've got a school district, and they're already working on a plan. We've already gotten an email from the superintendent, and so, I think we can do nothing but hope for the best. And just be patient with our school systems. They're working hard even if we don't see it," she said.

Helmholdt says the district realizes there's also disappointment for high school seniors. He says the district is working to make sure they graduate and that a ceremony will hopefully take place, if possible, at a later date.

Muskegon Area Intermediate School Districts released a statement that reads, in part:

"While this type of “school” cannot replace the rich, face-to-face learning that takes place inside our classrooms, our staff are ready for this challenge. Many students will not have access to the high-tech learning devices and robust online connections they enjoy within our schools. Our staff will do what they can to reach these students as well."

They also encourage parents to help keep students engaged in learning.