photos by Dianne Carroll Burdick
Grand Rapids — It had been 44 weeks and four days since students in Grand Rapids Public Schools had been physically present at their schools, in their classrooms and with their teachers. Almost a year. On Jan. 19, on a chilly winter day instead of a warm fall morning, the students came back.
GRPS, along with the rest of the state, had been put on pause in mid-March 2020. Unlike many others though, the district did not return to face-to-face learning for the 2020-21 school year. The initial plan was for nine weeks of virtual learning, until Oct. 26, but that was extended until Jan. 4 and then extended once more until Jan. 19 because of COVID concerns.
Students had the option to stay with 100 percent online learning or to choose a hybrid option that sees one cohort attend school in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and another cohort attend in person on Thursdays and Fridays. Both groups will learn remotely on their off days, while Wednesdays will be 100 percent remote learning for everyone and will provide for a day of deep cleaning and sanitization.
At last count, 9,253 students had chosen hybrid and 5,394 virtual, with pools of teachers designated to teach in classrooms, virtually or both, said GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt. Thousands of devices have been distributed to students along with hotspots for those lacking Wi-Fi access.