District leaders talk remote learning, offer advice to parents

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — At this time last year, most West Michigan schools were completely virtual. Now that kids are back in the classroom, it can be more challenging for students to learn remotely if they do have to stay home. 

For schools that don’t require masks, anyone who is in close contact with a COVID-19 positive case is required to quarantine for 10 days. That means missing at least a week and a half of school. 

Since not all schools have the option to learn virtually anymore, there are some concerns about students falling behind.  

“We know that there is really no replacement for the presence of a teacher in a classroom,” said Jason Craner, communications director for Holland Public Schools. 

Craner said after last year, it’s clear learning from home just doesn’t work for most students. That in part is why HPS decided on a district-wide mask mandate even before it was ordered by the Ottawa County Health Department.

“We expect to have significantly fewer quarantines this year because of our mask ruling,” he explained. 

This school year’s quarantine rules are different. Students wearing masks don’t have to quarantine when they’ve had close contact unless they’re showing symptoms.

It’s a change Craner believes will keep more kids in school. If a child does have to stay home, he said HPS provides instruction through Google Classroom. 

“They’ll stay in contact with their teachers and have assignments and still be able to continue learning while they’re at home,” said Craner.

But some district leaders say remote learning isn’t the same. 

“We want our students in class as much as possible because we know that that’s the best thing for them,” said Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Scott Smith.

He added that his district is doing the best it can to adapt, but that educators also have to recognize there are limitations.

“We just can’t necessarily provide that same type of engaging academic experience for students if they’re not able to be in the classroom,” Smith said. 

Rather than putting pressure on kids to keep up, his district is more focused on getting them caught up when they return. 

“The most important thing is for families to take a deep breath and focus on their physical well-being. Get as much support as they can from their districts, we’ll help their students get caught up when they get back.”

Both Scott and Craner added that many districts have technology like laptops and hotspots available for kids who can’t be in school. If your child does have to quarantine at any point this school year, it’s worth checking in with their school to see what’s available for them to use.

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