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Safely Back to School: Zeeland Public Schools makes parents choose as school year draws near

Online learning or in-person education?
Zeeland Public Schools.jpg
Posted at 11:52 AM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-05 08:55:43-04

ZEELAND, Mich. — Zeeland Public Schools is among the growing list of districts announcing their back-to-school plan, giving parents the choice to educate from home or send them back to school starting September 1.

“Our school motto is ‘Safe, valued and loved,'” said Zeeland Public Schools Superintendent Calvin DeKuiper

Parents have until August 8 to decide whether their student will go back to school or sign up for a semester of Z-connect, the district’s remote learning platform.

“We know from our prior surveys that 75 percent of our families want to go back to school in a face-to-face setting or with the safety precautions,” DeKuiper said.

The district is putting the decisive power in the hands of parents, since 15 percent are either unsure or unwilling to send kids back to school, even with all of the extra precautions being taken.

“We’ll have one-way hallways and screening procedures, and we’re asking people if they don't feel well to stay home,” DeKuiper said. “We have hand sanitizing stations all over. We’re cleaning classrooms in between every class or every few hours for an elementary school.”

DeKuiper also said masks will be required at all times, including on school buses. The only exception will be in the lunchroom. Also, school sports and performing arts might look different, as the district plans to invest in cameras as an alternative method to watch the games. “We have invested in streaming services for many of our athletes at venues and also in the all performing arts centers,” DeKuiper said. "And we have a couple that will be portable to bring to the elementary buildings."

However, if the state moves from Phase 4 back to Phase 3 of the MI Safe Start Plan, all students will be transitioned to remote learning regardless of what their parent has chosen.

DeKuiper says students who need a laptop or WIFI puck will be given one.

Students who choose ZConnect to start the year will remain ZConnect.

“My heart kind of goes out for these families right now, because you have to blend the factual information that you know, of what’s going on in the world around us, with what the schools doing. And then it’s the emotion that tugs at your heartstrings," DeKuiper said.

The district made these decisions based on the Michigan Safe Schools Roadmap and invites parents to review the district’s in-depth plan for each phase.