KALAMAZOO (WOOD) — Kalamazoo Public Schools announced Thursday night they will stay in virtual learning until at least March.  

Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri presented data the district has collected since late August when the school district made the decision to start the year virtually. An increase in COVID-19 test positivity and a rise in cases among younger people was just part of the data used to make the decision. 

According to Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services data, almost 15% of all cases in Kalamazoo County now fall in to the 0-19 age range.  

The district also sent survey’s to parents, teachers and non-teacher staff. All three groups showed a desire to remain in virtual learning.  

“To ensure that we were methodical about our decision around transitioning to Trimester 2, we created a weighted formula that prioritized safety above all else,” Raichoudhuri said. “We surveyed parents and employees and reviewed research and health department data. The results of the formula indicated that in all categories, the recommendation was to stay in remote learning for the health and safety of our staff and students.”

The survey responses from parents were close with an almost equal number of responses from parents wanting to stick with the “Smart and Safe Plan” to return to the classroom with a hybrid model in Trimester 2 and parents wanting to stay virtual. 

“As I did with the decision in August to have all students start the year in remote learning, I made this decision for Trimester 2 with an eye toward safety first. I know this will not please all families and that learning at home can be very difficult. KPS is committed to making the remote learning experience the best it can be and to providing additional support to our most vulnerable students. We will be seeking input on how to make remote learning even better in Trimester 2,” Raichoudhuri said in a press release.

Board Treasurer Ken Greschk asked Raichoudhuri if there was any chance plans could be changed mid-term if conditions allow. Raichoudhuri told the board they have no plans to change mid-trimester. They want to keep the continuity for teachers and parents.

The earliest Kalamazoo Public Schools students could return to the classroom now would be March 15. The Smart and Safe Plan allows for Option 1 students to return full time face-to-face, five days a week during the third trimester.  

Dr. Raichoudhuri told the board she will work with the community and stakeholders the same way she has throughout the planning process for the 20-21 school year.