As kids and teachers return to the classroom from winter break, districts are taking varying approaches to keep the spread of COVID-19 minimal, especially after students or staff likely traveled for the holiday season.
Some have gone virtual. Ken-O-Sha Elementary in Grand Rapids, as well as the Lansing district and many districts in Detroit, began their start to this semester in virtual format.
Last week the Michigan Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to all the state’s school superintendents, urging them to implement COVID-19 prevention measures like masking, distancing, and moving events with more than 100 people virtual or canceling them altogether.
“I know it’s taxing, it’s taxing on everyone,” said South Haven Public School Superintendent Kevin Schooley. “It’s really important that they stay in school, it’s really important academically, social-emotional. However, do I hold my breath a little bit? Sure.”
Schooley says South Haven did contemplate going virtual, but ultimately decided to stick with their existing masking policy inside school buildings, and their test-to-stay program that allows close contacts to remain in class if they show a negative test. They tested 500 kids through that program the week before winter break.
“Last year when we were toggling with hybrid, with virtual, with in-person, that was difficult. This year too, with being in person, it’s bred another set of challenges that are equally as stressful,” said Schooley. “I look at the kids in our care and I don’t want to put them in a situation where I feel it’s unsafe.”
Similar to South Haven, other districts like Kalamazoo, Kentwood and Grand Rapids Public aren’t making any sweeping changes, instead bolstering measures they already had in place. But administrators, like Schooley, are still cautiously waiting to see the result of winter break on their attendance.
“We speculated, because there were no absolutely in this whole experience the last almost 2-years,” he said. “We just tried to prepare the best we can to keep people safe.”