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Laughter, lessons & support for virtual students, parents

Comstock Park — For students learning while at home who need interaction with their classmates, a group of Comstock Park parents have found a way to make it happen.

Five moms — and sometimes, a grandma — and 10 virtual students from Stoney Creek Elementary meet outside at Wahlfield Park every Thursday to play, learn and take an occasional field trip. 

“This gives the kiddos time to be social and out in the fresh air,” said Kim Pratt, parent of Stoney Creek second-grader Ava and kindergartner Naomi. Not to mention, “it gives moms a time to chat and laugh.”

Amanda Myers, mom to second-grader Kyle, said a couple of the parents knew each other and decided to form the small group as a way for the youngsters to interact. The families all live within a few miles of one another. 

“I like that we get to go outside and play around,” Kyle said.

Brittany Arraut, mom to Lara, a kindergartner, and Calvin, a first-grader, worried about her kids’ social-emotional needs.

“I really felt strongly it was important to have them interacting with their peers in a safe environment,” Arraut said. “They love it – it’s their favorite day of the week.”

Pratt said the students sometimes do STEM activities such as dissecting owl pellets, and building with fruit and toothpicks. There also was a surprise birthday party in October involving a scavenger hunt and piñata, an outdoor Halloween party and a private tour of a nearby apple orchard.

Parents Nicole Olger, Sue Urbanski, Kim Pratt and Amanda Myers gather at Wahlfield Park

Parents Supporting Parents

Myers — whose brother-in-law recently had a liver transplant, so the family is trying to be extra cautious — said she is grateful to have the ability to do distance learning, and commended Stoney Creek’s “remarkable efforts” with in-school safety measures.

Arraut’s husband is high-risk due to a congenital heart defect. Nicole Olger, parent to second-grader Eli and first-grader Madi, said she and her husband chose the virtual option mainly because she’s a nurse. 

Moms say the group has been helpful as families navigate distance  learning. Myers noted the technical support, and being able to discuss emotional challenges. 

“I think for us it’s been hugely successful. It’s good to have those close bonds,” she said. 

Through an online group chat, the parents message one another to get clarifications on assignments and share tips to navigate Edgenuity, the district’s virtual platform. 

They also commended their children’s teachers for their support.

Arraut’s advice for those considering a support group for virtual students and parents is to communicate with one another. The Comstock Park group decided the rules early on in an effort to help everyone feel safe. 

“Everyone wears masks all the time,” she said. “Be open and honest about your comfort level during the pandemic so no one’s feeling uncomfortable.” 

The group plans to “bundle up and be outdoors as much as possible” through the winter months, Myers said.

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Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry covers Comstock Park. She is from Evansville, Indiana and St. Joseph, Mich. and a graduate of Lake Michigan Catholic High School and Central Michigan University. She moved to the Grand Rapids area in the mid-1980s and has been a resident of Comstock Park since 2002. She understands the complexity, rewards and challenges of the teaching profession as she has five years of experience as a high school teacher at River Valley High School in Three Oaks, Mich. and St. Stephen High School in Saginaw. As a reporter for the Advance Newspapers and Mlive she covered Sparta, Kent City and Northview schools. She is happy to be reunited with some of her journalism colleagues and writing about Comstock Park Public Schools for the School News Network. Read Karen's full bio or email Karen.

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