WEST MICHIGAN, Mich. — Several districts are adjusting their operations going into the Thanksgiving holiday to try and minimize COVID spread among students and staff, and to allow local health departments time to catch up with backlogged contact tracing efforts.
Godfrey-Lee Public Schools in the Wyoming area has been ding their best to keep students learning in-person as much as possible.
“Our plan at Godfrey Lee, as it's been all along, is to make sure that we have the supports and structures in place for us to be in-person. With that said, we do have plans in place to shift to virtual if needed,” said Superintendent Kevin Polston.
2 weeks ago they were forced to pivot the high school to virtual learning because of a lack of substitute teachers available. They will return to an in-person format come this Monday.
"We have strictly cohorted kids, so they don't interact or intermingle with other groups of students. And that's a great mitigation strategy. In addition, we have COVID testing on site that gets rapid results in less than 24 hours.”
During the week of Thanksgiving, they will again briefly shift to virtual learning for that Monday and Tuesday.
“That will give us 10 calendar days, between school days, which will allow for those that are in quarantine to continue to stay safe, but also finish out that time period, to also allow our staff to get back healthy and out of quarantine,” Polston said.
Over at Zeeland Public Schools, they have already switched back to an all virtual format for the time being.
"Between now and through Thanksgiving week, all students will be in a remote setting,” said Superintendent Cal De Kuiper of Zeeland Public Schools.
“But our game plan is to stay remote through Thanksgiving, no school the week of Thanksgiving, and then try to return to our normal as best that we can on November 30.”
De Kuiper says with students physically out of the buildings for some time, the local health department can catch up with necessary contact tracing efforts.
“We have 6,000 students, about 90% would return to full-time in-person. And as long as we have the staff available, and it looks like most of our students will be off quarantine and ready to go,” De Kuiper said.
Both districts continuously re-evaluating an ever changing situation.
“We know that education is best when it's in person face-to-face, and we react and learn with each other,” De Kuiper said.
“The message right now to our community is that we know this is hard for you. We appreciate the help as we all try to get back to a safe setting, so that we can keep your kids safe when we return.”