Grand Rapids — While a planned expansion of in-person learning from two days a week to four days a week is still on for GRPS students in grades K-8, a hoped-for similar expansion for the district’s high school students will not happen in 2020-21.
Instead, the district announced on April 23 in a letter to stakeholders from Superintendent Leadriane Roby: “The current two-day hybrid in-person schedule for students in grades 9 through 12 (Cohort A Monday/Tuesday and Cohort B Thursday/Friday) will continue for the remainder of the school year.”
The decision to not expand hybrid in-person for high school students was, wrote Roby, based on the data and guidance from the Kent County Health Department, including the fact that KCHD has not approved 3 feet of physical distancing for grades 9 through 12 as it has for the younger grade levels.
This comes after a mid-March decision by the CDC that updated K-12 school guidance for physical distancing and recommended that with universal masking, students should maintain 3 feet of distance in classroom settings as opposed to prior recommendations of 6 feet.
The CDC did, however, note: “Middle school students and high school students should be at least 6 feet apart in communities where transmission is high, if cohorting is not possible.” The CDC defines cohorting as groups of students who are kept together with the same peers and staff throughout the school day.
GRPS said in its letter that because of the number of students in grades 9-12 who are currently in the hybrid in-person model, “we are unable to combine the cohorts and still maintain the 6 feet social distancing mitigation measure that is required.”
Added Roby: “While we know this decision may be frustrating for some, since the beginning of the pandemic, we have clearly and consistently shared that our decisions would be based on the science, data and guidance from the Kent County Health Department.”
On April 21 the district wrote to stakeholders about the K-8 plans, and noted that KCHD had acknowledged that all the required mitigation measures are in place and supported the district’s plan to move forward with the expansion for students in grades K-8.
GRPS also said that all students currently enrolled in 100% virtual instruction, hybrid in-person preschool and Early Childhood Special Education, will maintain their current schedules with some exceptions, including Montessori Children’s House and Alger, Burton, Riverside and Westwood middle schools. Virtual students in grades 6-8 at comprehensive middle schools now have expanded synchronous learning time where they see each of their teachers every class period Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Parents with further questions were advised to check directly with their student’s school.