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Area superintendents warn of need for vigilance in combating virus

Letter to public cites rising rates of cases, effects on schools

All Districts – As Kent County sees a surge in COVID-19 cases, and rising rates of positive tests, West Michigan school superintendents sounded a cautionary note Tuesday, Oct. 20 with a letter to their families.

Signed by 46 superintendents, including from both public and private school districts, the letter acknowledged the patience of parents, their understanding during the ongoing pandemic and the importance of schools in communities.

“Schools are vital in meeting the academic, social, emotional and physical well-being of students and families,” they wrote. “We must do everything we can to keep schools safe and open.”

But, they added, “public health experts report significant increases in positive cases across our state and region in recent weeks … largely due to a lack of safe practices — mainly distancing and mask wearing — in social settings and community gatherings.”

The letter also warned that if cases continue to trend upwards, further restrictions in school settings could be necessary, including cancellations and other mitigation efforts in activities such as athletics, band, choir and drama.

“As a worst-case scenario,” the letter continued, “schools may be asked to shift to a distance learning instructional model either periodically or for an extended period of time until cases decline.”

Cold Weather Could Bring More Cases 

Kent ISD Superintendent Ron Caniff said the low percentage of school-associated cases involving transmission of the virus shows that school mitigation strategies are effective. 

“But we are closely tracking the data,” he cautioned, “and we are seeing an increase in community spread, though not because of schools, and increased hospitalizations. We are also seeing more frequent interruptions to learning because of quarantining. As it gets colder we anticipate an even greater number of cases.”

Caniff noted that superintendents are sending the letter to their parents and other stakeholders asking for the community’s assistance in slowing the spread of the virus.

The hope, he said, is to reinforce the importance of persistent vigilance.

“If we want to keep in-person instruction occurring and our schools and activities open,” he said, “everyone’s effort is necessary to slow community spread of the virus.”


Full text of superintendents’ letter

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan covers East Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville and is the lead reporter for Grand Rapids. He hails from Exeter, Ontario (but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985) and is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop. Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both journalism and public relations, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level for almost a decade. In the summer of 2019, he began his own writing and communications business, de Haan Communications. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio


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