KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Kalamazoo School Board has upheld the decision to instruct students virtually for the remainder of the school year. The decision was made by Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri recently. The 6-`to-1 vote to uphold the decision was made my school board trustees on Thursday evening during what turned into a three hour meeting.
Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri referenced lack of staffing, social distancing, and union requirements as factors that led to the decision. Trustees who voted in favor agreed the virtual learning model is not best strategy for students to learn but 'right' during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"We do not have the human resources to provide hybrid and fully virtual at the same time," said Raichoudhuri.
Trustee Ken Greschak, the lone no vote, stated he was convinced Kalamazoo Public Schools could find another option that would offer some kind of in-person learning instruction, saying 97% of schools in the state are offering either in-person or hyprid instruction.
"That makes Kalamazoo a pretty profound outlier, and I think we can look at our community in smaller segments and do in person. I trust this administration. I trust their teachers. I think we can figure it out. And for that reason, I will be voting against strictly virtual," said Trustee Greschak.
Meanwhile, a petition is circulating to urge another alternative. More than 500 people have already signed the petition.
Parents who called into the school board meeting expressed a desire for the district to attempt another alternative, citing higher usage of opioid and suicide rates as some of the more serious concerns.
"I'm not going to spend my time tonight to talk about my all-A's student whose grades have dropped so dramatically, his dream of becoming a veterinarian is in real jeopardy," said parent Michael Coats. "The reality is the lack of in person education and lack of socialization is having a devastating effect on our children, whether it's the staggering 42% increase in opioid overdoses and deaths, or how child abuse and neglect cases are expected to end up 83% higher this year, leading to 3 to 5 times greater odds of teen suicide. Are you ready to deal with that potentiality?"
Other parents called the situation "disheartening," citing this is the first time they feel their children are disadvantaged attending KPS rather than one of the other area districts.
The group is asking for reconsideration on the board's end, despite the decision being upheld by the board.