Kent Co. group looks at back-to-school amid virus concerns

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s a day at the park for Elita Rice and her granddaughter Bailey.

Bailey, her mom and little sister came up in March from Florida for a spring break visit.

The stay and home order changed their return plans.

“So, we said, ‘let’s extend your stay a week.’ And then let’s extend your stay for two more weeks. And now, I don’t know it’s been 10, 11 weeks,” Rice said.

The way things are going, Bailey’s family may make the stay permanent.

And that means she would start third grade here in West Michigan.

“So then, it’s the challenge of driving her back and forth and seeing if we have day care. She has a little sister that’s 2. Seeing if we can get her into a day care as well because I do work a full-time job,” Rice said.

But if you’re a Kent County parent hoping to hear more on next year’s school schedule, you’ll have to wait.

“As far as firm date this time, we don’t have a decision on that,” said Kevin Polston, superintendent of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools and Kent Intermediate Superintendents Association Future Committee Chair.

A lot of things have to be worked out before that date can be figured out from social distancing to wearing masks in schools to continuing distance learning.

“It’s likely that there won’t be able to be 60 kids on a bus and that we won’t have 30 kids at the same time in a classroom until we have better ways of stopping transmission and making sure that is a low-risk environment for our children,” said Adam London, a committee member and administrative health officer with the Kent County Health Department.

London is among the committee of educators, community and business groups and health care professionals examining ways to reduce the risk back to school could pose, as the pandemic is expected to continue through the fall.

“As to what the procedures might look like as it relates to social distancing, screening, sanitization, hand washing before returning in the fall,” Polston said. “While those specific plans are still unfolding, we want to make sure that parent perceptions are heard and that we do have the chance to learn from best practices in business and industry.”

So, the group is set to conduct a countywide survey of parents on their concerns and expectations.

They’re also reaching out to the business community.

“The business community is a little bit ahead as far as reopening and using some of the best practices that they’re learning. What’s working? What may, maybe not working?” said Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick Baker.

The group also includes representatives from communities especially hard hit by COVID-19.

“Breaking down the data will help us to meet the needs of all members of West Michigan,” said Dallas Lenear, chairperson of the Black Impact Collaborative.

While the plan is still in the works, London says one thing appears to be certain.

“It’s highly unlikely that the school experience is going to be back to normal anytime soon,” London said.

Surveys are being sent out to parents by individual school districts. If you don’t receive a survey or would like it in a different language, call your local district.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

COVID-19 in West Michigan

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links

Coronavirus Resources

More Coronavirus Resources