• Elizabeth Listerman

The Beginning of the COVID-19 School Year

Back to school this Fall does not look the same for schools across Grand Rapids, Michigan, or even the US as students of all ages begin a new school year. Normally, we expect to see swarms of people gathered around the "Back To School" section at Meijer, or parents frantically trying to ready their kids for school with haircuts, new clothes, and doctors’ appointments for that physical before soccer and football season start. But this year everything is clouded by the constant haze of the inevitable effects of COVID-19 that will most likely wreak havoc on the fun and exciting aspects of a new school year.

This year, kids will either be attending school via computer in the comfort and safety of their own home or will make the trek and take the chance at a little normalcy and go back to school. But how normal can school be when overshadowed by the very real presence of this pandemic? Not normal at all. Many public Schools are trying their hand at both.

On August 24th, Kentwood Public Schools began virtual/remote learning for all students. By doing this they wanted to let students and parents become familiar with online learning to help keep the distance for at least two more weeks, and if the families decided to forgo virtual learning on September 8th they could come back to school for in-person learning this Tuesday following Labor Day. KPS beautifully enacted this back to school plan leaving the parents to have full authority over the health and safety of their child when it comes to the future of their education as well as their health.

Other school districts, such as Forest Hills Public Schools, are trying something a little different. FHPS is offering two different models for both their K-6th and 7th-12th. First for K-6th, they are offering a staggered hybrid course twice a week for in-person learning from August 31st to September 11th, and after that date they will reevaluate the circumstances that COVID might have decided whether or not to keep up the in-person hybrid class system.

The second option for K-6th is fully online virtual classes that must be committed to for the whole semester. The options for 7th-12th look extremely similar in execution except the dates vary for the hybrid in-person courses being August 31st to September 25th instead of the earlier stated dates.

With COVID-19, CDC guidelines have been put into place at various establishments as well as within schools. For many establishments’ masks are mandatory and this doesn't stop at schools. Schools across Grand Rapids require a mask to be worn at all times, as well as teachers and faculty must adhere to sanitizing and social distancing protocols. Buses and classrooms will be spaced evenly and within reason to meet these safety regulations, but for how long? No one can be sure.

All in all, classrooms everywhere are experiencing a dramatic makeover. Whether your classroom is now your warm bed or messy kitchen table, or if it is a desolate room lacking in the normal occupancy of thirty or so kids bustling and creating chaos. 2020 is the year of change and uncertainty, and hopefully we can learn and adapt our way through it, and become stronger, and better because of it.

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