KALAMAZOO (WOOD) — Kalamazoo Public Schools is laying out its plans for the 2021-2022 school year after a year of virtual learning.
Rita Raichoudhuri, the district’s superintendent, held a town hall with parents Wednesday morning to go over the district’s plans. The default option for learning next fall will be face-to-face learning in all buildings, with the school year starting Aug. 31.
Raichoudhuri warned parents that, while the district is resuming in-person instruction, it will not be a return to normal. Students at all grade levels will be required to wear a mask “from the time they get on the bus in the morning until the time they get off the bus at night.”
Middle school sports will return following Michigan High School Athletic Association and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services guidelines and elementary students will have “playground time.” The school will also be providing special masks for music classes.
Each school will have hand sanitizer in all buildings and students will be socially distanced “to the extent possible” but Raichoudhuri told parents the district cannot guarantee they will be able to follow social distancing recommendations due to space limitations. Parents will be asked to sign a commitment form stating they will continue to do daily health screens and keep their child home when sick.
“At any point in time, however, KPS can make the decision to revert back to virtual learning as a result of active COVID cases and/or outbreaks,” Raichoudhuri said.
The district will also be installing bipolar ionization systems in all schools and on all buses. The schools will be ventilated each day for three hours before and three hours after school.
Parents will also have the option to opt-in to virtual learning, but it will be “an individual decision, not a district decision” as it was this year.
Virtual learning will include both synchronous and asynchronous learning. K-5 students will use Calvert Learning while 6th- to 8th-grade students will use Accelerate Education.
Students that participate in virtual learning will still be “attached to a school” for extracurricular purposes and they will still be Kalamazoo Promise eligible. Raichoudhuri said school attachment for K-8 students may not be their “home school” but high school students will stay with their “home high school.”
Virtual opt-in forms will be sent to parents this week and the decision to opt-in to virtual learning must be made by May 3. Parents will still have the option to opt-out of virtual learning by June 6 if they change their minds. The commitment to virtual learning is at least one trimester. Families may opt back into virtual learning by giving four weeks notice before the end of each trimester. Once a virtual learner opts into face-to-face learning, they cannot opt back into virtual.
The hour-long presentation included a Q&A session at the end where Raichoudhuri took questions from parents. Raichoudhuri stressed the district will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when it comes to vaccinations. Right now, there is no requirement for anyone — students, teachers or staff — to get a vaccine although she says “the majority of teachers and staff” have been vaccinated.
Parents who missed the town hall and still have questions can contact the district at firstname.lastname@example.org. The presentation will also be available on the district’s website by Friday.
—News 8’s Kyle Mitchell contributed to this report