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Schools in nine districts announce closures as COVID cases spike

Editor’s note: SNN continues to track school building closures in Kent County public school districts based on our reporting. If you know of any not listed here, please email us with your information.

Multiple Districts — New school building closures were announced by at least nine school districts in Kent ISD this week, with another reverting to a hybrid schedule, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan. The closings come as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer warned Thursday of skyrocketing cases statewide and expected higher counts this winter.

Here are the latest closures as of press time, followed by previous closures earlier this fall. 

Due to increasing numbers of positive cases and individuals in quarantine, all schools in Wyoming Public Schools closed for in-person instruction at the end of the day on Thursday, Nov. 12 with plans to reopen Monday, Nov. 30.

In an email to parents, Superintendent Craig Hoekstra said the district was notified over the past week of more than 20 new COVID-19 cases, and increasingly large numbers of individuals who are in self-quarantine across the district. The Kent County Health Department recommended the closure. 

“In addition to our concern for the health and safety of our students and staff, the high numbers of individuals affected has also impacted the availability of teaching staff, bus drivers, food service workers, and students coming to school. It has become increasingly more challenging for in-person teachers to provide instruction to their in-person students and their quarantined students learning from home, at the same time.” Hoekstra said in the email.

Rockford High School and Freshman Center will close Tuesday, Nov. 17 until Monday, Nov. 30. 

“We’re going to re-evalute this on (Nov. 24) to see if there will be any extension of that,” said Mike Cuneo, assistant superintendent of finance. Cases in grades K-8 don’t warrant closure at this point, he said, “but at the 9-12 we’re seeing a pretty significant spike in the amount of quarantined kids and the amount of actually infected, whether it’s staff and/or kids.”   

Godwin Heights Public Schools will be going virtual for two weeks starting Monday, Nov. 16, Superintendent Bill Fetterhoff announced.

Fetterhoff said that the decision was not based on the district’s number of cases — Godwin Heights has the lowest number of cases out of all of the Kent County school districts — but the impact on the staff needed to run the district.

“The fact is it is so hard when the adult community of teachers, bus drivers, and departments are impacted,” Fetterhoff said. “So, on top of the sub shortage, we are faced with not having enough staff. We looked at it as we could wait until things got horrendous or be proactive and go virtual now in hopes of giving people time to get healthy.”

The buildings will be open to staff with in-person classes returning on Nov. 30.  

Grandville Middle and High schools are also moving to fully remote learning beginning Monday, due to increasing COVID-19 positivity rates in the community and staffing challenges due to persons in isolation or quarantine.

Both schools will remain virtual until at least Monday, Nov. 30, but that timeline may be extended, Superintendent Roger Bearup wrote in a letter to parents dated Nov. 12. That decision will be based on guidance from the Kent County Health Department.

“The time to act … is now,” Bearup wrote. “We had a great 12-week run with our in-person format! We will continue to do everything possible to provide a quality remote education during this time, as well as an opportunity for your child to do their remote learning within our buildings if you find that it is absolutely necessary.”

Middle and high school students will also remain at home today and will be given asynchronous remote learning assignments to complete while their teachers and staff prepare for the fully remote teaching plan that begins next week.

Byron Center High School and Middle School is implementing a hybrid schedule Nov. 16-20 due to an increase in positive cases, which has led to an increase in quarantined students, plus a high number of students awaiting test results. Half of the students will attend in groups twice a week with Wednesday remote for all. All district schools will be remote Monday, Nov. 23, and Tuesday, Nov. 24.

“We believe that using both of these strategies over the next two weeks will allow for a successful return from the Thanksgiving holiday. We intend to return to full in-person learning after the Thanksgiving break,” said Superintendent Kevin Macina in an email to parents.

Cedar Springs High School also shifted this week to fully remote learning. The remote learning plan began Monday and will be in place through Dec. 1. 

While the number of actual positive cases has remained low, Superintendent Scott Smith said the number of students and staff required to quarantine for 14 days currently accounts for nearly 99% of absences at the high school. The high school was expecting three student absences due to a positive COVID-19 test and over 180 students out due to quarantine, said Smith

The decision to temporarily close the high school will not affect Cedar Springs students in grades pre-K through 8. 

East Kentwood High School and East Kentwood Freshman Campus closed for in person learning Nov. 10 through Nov. 20 for to allow for contact tracing and deep cleaning, following nine new COVID-19 positive cases, five of which were confirmed in the past 24 hours, according to a letter sent to parents from Superintendent Michael Zoerhoff.

All students at Forest Hills Northern High School are fully remote from Nov. 10 to Nov. 19 with a 10th staff member who tested positive and a shortage of substitute teachers.

As of Monday, Nov. 9, all in-person students at Forest Hills Central and Eastern high schools and Northern Hills Middle, Central Middle and Eastern Middle have switched to the hybrid model through Thanksgiving. The district cited rising coronavirus case numbers throughout the state.

Kelloggsville Public Schools parents received notice Tuesday that all district schools would close at the end of the day and would be moving to virtual learning until reopening in person Monday, Nov. 30. The decision was a result of both an increasing number of COVID cases in Kent County and growing numbers of Kelloggsville students and staff with COVID-like symptoms, according to Superintendent Samuel Wright. During the switch, Kelloggsville planned to deep-clean all of its buildings, Wright said.

Sparta High School closed for today, Nov. 13, and will remain closed Monday for a service day, officials said. 

Previous known closures (listed alphabetically): 

Caledonia Public Schools – The high school closed Aug. 28 for two weeks due to students and staff testing positive. 

Forest Hills Public Schools – Middle and high schools closed temporarily the week of Oct. 19 due to students testing positive. 

Grand Rapids Public Schools – District decided Oct. 19 to continue its all-virtual model through the end of the semester. 

Grandville Public Schools – Middle and high schools on Nov. 6 moved to remote, asynchronous learning every Friday through the end of the semester, to better support students struggling with the district’s hybrid model. 

Kentwood Public Schools – East Kentwood High School and the Freshman Center closed the week of Oct. 26-30 due to positive cases on campus, and to allow for contact tracing and deep cleaning. 

Lowell Area Schools – Middle school closed Oct. 7 for two weeks due to outbreaks among staff; moved to hybrid learning on Nov. 2 for three weeks, along with the High School.

Rockford Public Schools – The high school and Freshman Center closed Oct. 12 for two weeks due to several students testing positive as well as a few staff members. One classroom each at Meadow Ridge, Roguewood, Cannonsburg and Belmont elementary schools were also put on remote instruction for two weeks.

Thornapple Kellogg — Middle school closed on Oct. 27. 

Wyoming Public Schools – Gladiola Elementary School closed for two weeks on  Oct. 19 due to a person testing positive. 

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