GRPS outlines distance learning plan amid pandemic


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Public Schools aims to have most of its distance learning online, but families who do not have the technology will be able to borrow it.

Earlier this month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all K-12 school buildings to close, ending face-to-face learning for the remainder of the school year amid the coronavirus outbreak. Under the order, each district must create a localized plan to teach students remotely.

GRPS says the official start date for distance learning is set for April 27. However, teachers are asked to do a “soft launch” on April 23 and 24 with the goal of getting everyone acclimated to the new learning system. 

This week, staff will have access to district buildings to get any supplies and materials needed to help implement the system. Professional development is already underway.

“We’ve got some dynamic teachers, school leaders, curriculum specialists, IT specialists that have spent the better part of four weeks putting together every last detail of this plan,” GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt told News 8. “While we know there’s some that are maybe starting a little earlier, it takes us time to make sure we’re collaborating with the union, to make sure we have a plan for rolling out the technology devices.”

The district plans for most of the learning to be done online. Preferably, kindergarten and first grade students will have iPads or tablets and older students have Chromebooks. However, officials say laptops, desktop computers and similar devices will work, too.

Families should have received a letter in the mail on how to borrow devices or get internet access if they don’t have it. Helmholdt estimated the district will roll out 4,000 devices to support families.

On Monday, GRPS school board approved the district’s plan, which was supported by the teacher’s union. The plan will be submitted to the Kent Intermediate School District for final approval. 

More details about the plan can be found here. Parents with questions or concerns asked to call 616.301.1111 or email

Officials are also reminding people that GRPS’s grab and go meal sites are available on Mondays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at City High Middle, Hope Academy, Ottawa Hills High School, San Juan Diego Academy, and Sibley Elementary. 

Other area districts have also unveiled plans for families. Some are listed below.

Michigan is getting $89.4 million from the federal CARES Act coronavirus relief package to fund emergency grants to K-12 schools and colleges. More information on how that money will be distributed to districts is forthcoming.

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