At a press conference this afternoon, Superintendent Dr. Leadriane Roby announced that GRPS plans to join some other Michigan districts in suspending in-person school for the start of the school year. The decision is not final and will be voted on by the school board on August 10th, but the likelihood of the decision being drastically altered in that vote is low. City and other GRPS schools will instead continue distance learning until at least the end of the first marking period on October 21st, 2020. The district plans to reassess this plan and will not make a final decision on whether to reopen schools for the second marking period until closer to that date.
The decision is backed by a majority of students and teachers who answered GRPS surveys and comes with assurances that online school for the 2020 school year will be better than the distance learning plan implemented in the spring, which was crafted in crisis and did not maintain the rigor of a normal school schedule. Dr. Roby emphasized a planned increase in synchronous teaching, asking students and instructors to spend more time in virtual meetings together.
To support that strategy, GRPS will also be working to provide one-to-one technology for all students. Information on device pickup will be distributed by GRPS within the next week. The district is also offering a help desk to assist with the transition to online learning for the fall, contactable at the phone number 616-819-2000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sports, meanwhile, will continue in person but without spectators, in compliance with MSHAA guidelines.
In the spring, many seemed to view distance learning as a temporary fix, a view which is becoming increasingly hard to maintain. Resuming the new school year with virus numbers still on the rise and school doors still closed to students means that everyone will have to get used to the idea that online school is not behind us, at least for the next nine weeks.
Unfortunately, at this point we know very little of what another marking period of distance learning will actually look like. Adapting pre-existing classes that were planned for in-person learning was difficult enough, but starting entirely new classes, and, for some students, meeting new teachers for the first time, in an online environment is sure to be a challenge. New strategies will have to be developed to ensure that the normal first week of school activities can continue to happen online, and we simply have no idea what those strategies will be.
We at The City Voice will do our best to keep you, our readers, updated on the details of this new session of online school as we learn more. In the meantime, remember that the more effort everyone makes to follow health and safety guidelines the quicker schools and communities can reopen. To read about ways to keep yourself and others safe, check out this public health article by rising 8th grader Eleanor Martin.
Lastly, and most importantly, we want to hear your thoughts on distance learning. Over the next several weeks The City Voice will be working to assemble an open letter to teachers about what we the students want distance learning to look like. To share what you liked, and what you wished for, in the spring, head over to thecityvoice.org/share to access our active polls. If there is anything that you think would make another marking period of distance learning better please let us know, we hope to be able to incorporate as many voices as possible to make this community project meaningful.
Remember to stay home, stay safe, and enjoy these last three weeks of summer.