Safely Back to School: GRPS proposes all virtual learning for first 9 weeks of school

Posted at 2:30 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-27 15:26:28-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Public Schools proposed this afternoon that students start "100% virtually" for the first nine weeks of school.

GRPS made the announcement at a news conference where it is sharing details of its proposed Return to Learning Plan.

Watch the news conference

The proposed plan features one-to-one devices for all students, support for internet access and "increased student and family support."

GRPS said parent and staff survey data showed "the highest level of support for virtual learning."

The recommendation is to start school on Aug. 25, with "continuous assessment of the plan and preparations to shift to hybrid or 100% in person."

High school athletics would continue as planned in accordance with the executive order and guidelines by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA).

"The safety, health, and well-being of our students, families and staff has been at the forefront of all decision making regarding the start of school," GPRS said.

GRPS is also seeking continued flexibility and support from the state on average daily attendance, student count, instructional days and hours and more.

The district still needs to negotiate the proposed plan's "fine details," John Helmholdt, executive director of communications and external affairs at GRPS, told FOX 17 this afternoon.

Helmholdt told FOX 17 the final plan and recommendations will be made public on or before the Aug. 5 at the district's Academic Achievement Committee meeting.

GRPS also shared the full presentation GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby is delivering at the news conference today:

Good afternoon. A tremendous amount of time, energy, expertise, planning, stakeholder feedback, and collaboration with the union has gone into developing our COVID-10 Preparedness Response Plan.We have relied on multiple sources for direction including, but not limited to:

  • The KISD Futures Committee
  • The State Return to Learn Task Force that Dr. Gorman served on
  • The Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force on Education Return to School Advisory Council
  • Kent County Health Department
  • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
  • Centers for Disease Control
  • The Governor's Office
  • And more.

On June 30, Governor Whitmer issued an Executive Order that included the recommendations from her COVID-19 Task Force on the MI Safe Schools Roadmap.The executive order requires all districts to develop three plans in preparation for the fall — 100% in person, 100% distance learning, and a hybrid combination of the two.As part of our planning, we surveyed our parents and staff to get their feedback about our distance learning plan in the Spring and their thoughts and concerns about returning to school in the fall.The KISD survey in June received nearly 4000 responses from GRPS parents. Specifically on the safety question...

  • 71% said they are extremely or very confident that distance learning would be the safest

After Governor Whitmer released her Executive Order and the Michigan Safe Schools Roadmap, we surveyed parents and staff again. The survey technically ended last week Thursday and the findings show the most support for starting back in distance learning.

  • Of nearly 7,000 parents representing more than 12,000 students, 48% chose distance learning as the most preferred option, followed by hybrid at 26%, and in person at 25%.
  • Of the nearly 1,000 staff members, 53% most preferred distance learning, followed by 25% for hybrid, and 33% for in person learning.

We have repeatedly said the safety, health, and well-being of our students and staff are our top priority and will be the top priority in our decision making.

Based on the data, we are recommending that we start back to school 100% distance learning for the first marking period which goes until October 21.

During that 9 week period of time, we will continuously assess our decision and will be prepared for a potential in-person or hybrid return to school.

Of course, we will also follow any executive direction from the state and federal governments. In order to implement our virtual plan, we will need continued flexibility and support from Governor Whitmer and the state Legislature on our per pupil count, average daily attendance, and instructional days and hours.

We are recommending an increase in the amount of synchronous teaching at the elementary and secondary levels.

We are in collaboration with the teachers’ union and will be releasing specific details at the Board’s Academic Achievement Committee on August 5. In conjunction with the Academic Achievement Committee, we are planning a virtual town hall meeting on August 5 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.

In order to further strengthen and improve our distance learning plan, we will be launching one to one devices for all GRPS students.

We will also be providing resources to ensure all students have reliable internet access.

Parent University is in the process of developing a digital literacy training for parents and we will continue to provide technical support for students and parents.

We are establishing a “Family Helpdesk” for just-in-time support for families. The Family Helpdesk will be staffed to respond to general questions of all types including technology questions, student passwords, and more. Parents can call the main line at 616-819-2000 or email

Our distance learning plan also includes support and material packets for students with special needs where online learning is not the best option for our most vulnerable students.

We are still planning to continue with athletics in accordance with the executive order and MHSAA guidelines.

We will follow all rules and regulations related to nutrition services.

In conclusion, we said that the health, safety, and well being of our students and staff would be our top priority in decision making.

I believe starting with distance learning is practicing what we preach and is by far our safest approach to the start of school.

Thank you and I would like to open it up for questions.