Editor’s note: This story was updated Friday, Dec. 18 following new information from Grand Rapids Public Schools.
Grand Rapids – High school students will be allowed to join PK-8 students in switching to a hybrid learning plan as of Jan. 19, Superintendent Leadriane Roby announced Friday, Dec. 18.
For families who opted for the hybrid model of both in-person and remote instruction, high schoolers as well as students in grades PK-8 will be allowed to switch to the hybrid model, a decision based on the latest state health guidance, Roby said. Previously, students in grades 9-12 were tentatively scheduled to remain all-virtual until otherwise advised by state or county health authorities. The 100% virtual option will still be provided for all students who selected it, she said.
The district is closed on Jan. 18 for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Officials initially had hoped to move to a hybrid option on Jan. 4, but moved the date back on advice from the Kent County Health Department.
“We hope this is the last time we have to face this sort of delay,” Roby’s noted in a Dec. 11 letter to families.
She added then that the decision was based on the data in the GRPS COVID-19 Metrics Dashboard, the Kent County Health Department’s “Risk of Transmission in Schools” framework, and the KCHD’s recent advice that some schools should remain 100 percent virtual for the first two weeks of January due to the projected spread of COVID-19 over the holidays.
That advice came in a Nov. 20 Public Health Warning that said high schools should “remain in a remote educational model through January 15, 2021” because COVID-19 outbreaks and illnesses happen more frequently in the high school grades.
The KCHD added that they would make further recommendations after Jan. 15, “using the science and understanding that is available at that time.”
Subject to Change
As Roby said in her letter to parents: “As with everything related to COVID-19, these plans are subject to change based on any new state or county epidemic orders that may be announced between now and January 19.”
GRPS began the school year 100 percent remote and had planned to return to the classroom under a hybrid format on Oct. 26.
In that format, one cohort of students attends school in person on Mondays and Tuesdays and another on Thursdays and Fridays, with both groups learning remotely on their off days. Wednesdays will be 100 percent remote learning and provide for a day of deep cleaning and sanitization.
But the Oct. 26 start date for hybrid learning was extended until Jan. 4 because of rapidly rising COVID-19 positivity rates and case numbers in October, and because of an 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.
At the time, Roby and Kristian Grant, president of the GRPS board, said that moving forward the hope was that the district could set up clear measures that would guide it to a safe return.
In early December, the district unveiled a number of such measures, including a new GRPS COVID-19 Handbook and the Metrics Dashboard. The handbook was developed in consultation with the Kent County Health Department.