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Adult Ed expands to accommodate distance learning, scheduling needs

‘A smorgasbord of options’

Kent ISD – This past spring, as Kent County and the nation began its move through the COVID-19 pandemic, Kent ISD adult education staffers began to consider what the educational landscape might look like in the fall.

“I have a super-duper rockstar staff that wanted to make it as easy as we could for them to achieve their goals,” said Director of Adult Education Oogie Lamar. “So we did something unusual: we asked our students what they might need.”

Kent ISD Adult Education works with adult students in many capacities including high-school equivalency, or GED programs, learning English as a Second Language (ESL), or job skills through certified technical education (CTE) training.

Adult learners identified challenges such as having school-age children who would need help with distance learning.

“One of the things we always ask is if they have a device to take online classes,” Lamar said. “Students say they do have an iPad or a computer, but they only have one and it is mostly dedicated to their student’s learning. Then it becomes a choice of who gets to use it.”

Other challenges of adult students include being essential workers or working two jobs, which allows limited time for studying along with safety concerns of returning to in-person classes.

Considering all of these factors, the adult education staff recognized the need to expand its offerings, Lamar said.

“Basically, we are offering them a smorgasbord of options, so they can take a little of this and do a little of that.”

Kent ISD adult education offers English as a Second Language (ESL) programs

Following the Kent ISD adult education’s COVID-19 preparedness and response plan, students can attend basic education, GED and ESL classes on weekdays, evenings and now, on Saturdays. Classes are held at the Beckwith Adult Education Center, 2405 Leonard St. NE, and the Wyoming Community Education, 3600 Byron Center Ave. SW. Lamar noted that class sizes have been reduced to 10 to meet social distancing guidelines.

Students can opt to take courses online, or attend a blend of online and in-person learning. CTE courses are taught in person at Kent Career Tech Center. To be eligible for CTE courses, adults must also be enrolled in GED classes.

About one-third of adult education students have opted for distance learning, Lamar said. To help those with online class, the Kent ISD Adult Education staff created a how-to video providing step-by-step instructions to access class materials. 

Overall registration has been down, Lamar said. He estimated the program has registered about 400 students, down from about 500 this time last year. Before the stay-home order in March, the program had registered 1,181 students for 2020-2021, on track with previous years.

Registration for adult programs is continuous, Lamar said.

“I say you have to go slow to go fast. By the end of this week, we will probably have enrolled another 20 students and by the end of next week, another 20.”

Registration is available online, or in person at Beckwith Adult Education Center or Wyoming Community Education. Those registering in person must wear a mask and present a valid photo ID. GED students must provide a copy of their high-school transcript.

Kent ISD teacher Henry Diaz leads a GED class
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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma covers Kent ISD and Godwin Heights. She was born in the Detroit area but grew up in Brighton where she attended Hartland Public Schools. The salutatorian for the Class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in photography and German. She expanded her color palette to include orange and black as both her daughters graduated from Byron Center Public Schools; maroon and white for Aquinas College where her daughter studies nursing and also brought back blue and maize for Grand Rapids Community College where her youngest daughter currently is studying music. Read Joanne's full bio or email Joanne.

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