Grand Rapids – Plans to have Grand Rapids Public Schools students return to the classroom for face-to-face learning on Oct. 26 took a sudden turn this weekend after the Kent County Health Department late last week announced rapidly rising COVID-19 positivity rates and case numbers.
In the face of those increases, GRPS leaders met over the weekend and decided to extend the district’s 100 percent virtual learning model for the rest of the first semester, until Jan.4, 2021.
The decision was announced at a mid-morning online press conference on Monday, Oct. 19 and in a joint statement from Leadriane Roby, superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools; Kristian Grant, president of the Grand Rapids Board of Education; and Mary Bouwense, president of the Grand Rapids Education Association.
The trio cited a Friday, Oct. 16 public health bulletin from the Kent County Health Department and guidance from the Michigan Association for Local Public Health, which recommended that all districts consider virtual school.
“This has been hard for many of us, for all of us,” Roby noted at the online press conference. “But the top priority is the health, safety and well being of students, staff and families. The data is headed in the wrong direction.”
Grant added: “There are no easy answers and the stakes are very high right now. We believe that the decision to remain virtual is the safest and smartest approach at this time … We are asking for your patience.”
Bouwense applauded the district on its decision.
“I know teachers want to be back with their students,” she said, “but we need to stay healthy.”
Grant said that the weekend conversation and analysis that led to the decision to extend virtual schooling was a good process. But she noted that none involved want to find themselves in that “last-minute position” moving forward, and the hope would be for the district to set up indicators that will guide it to a safe return.
“We want to have clear measures,” said Roby.