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Back to classrooms for GRPS students — finally

In-person instruction resumes after months of online learning

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.

Doris Johnson walks her granddaughter, second-grader Briannah Lasenby, to the front door of Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy

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.

Parents and grandparents brought their children to Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy on Tuesday, the first day of in-person school for GRPS students
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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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