GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Public Schools will continue virtual learning until the start of the second semester.

GRPS had been preparing to launch hybrid in-person learning Oct. 26, but a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in Kent County caused administrator to reevaluate the decision. Instead, the district will remain virtual only until Jan. 4.

“While I know this may be frustrating for many of our students and families who were looking forward to in-person teaching and learning, our top priority is the health, safety and well-being of all of our students, all of our families and all of our staff,” Superintendent Leadriane Roby said. “The reality, the data is headed in the wrong direction for Kent County. And the back-and-forth of potential closings and openings of school would be a lot more disruptive than just staying virtual now.”

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School officials said they decided to stay virtual for now after speaking with the Kent County Health Department and state health officials.

“There are no easy answers, solutions or decisions and the stakes are very high right now,” GRPS Board of Education President Kristian Grant said.

District officials will continue to work with parents on finding solutions to challenges, including meeting technology demands and the special needs of some students.

“We’ve also done listening session through the fall at each building site as well as at the district level to get feedback from our families and community as to what’s working well, where are some challenges and suggestions they have to move forward,” Roby said. “We have talked about looking at learning pods to address our most vulnerable students and students who have disabilities as well as opportunities for students who are needing that additional support.”

Distance learning will remain in place until the end of the semester, with another attempt to return to the classroom, either completely or in a hybrid format, in early January — if the number of cases has stabilized.

“That’s like trying to predict the future,” Roby. “From an optimistic and hopeful place, yes, I want us to be back in class.”