'Day Without Immigrants' forces GRPS to declare a snow day

Day Without Immigrants forces GRPS snow day

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - The "Day Without Immigrants" movement is having a big effect today on attendance in the Grand Rapids Public School District.

Officials said Thursday, they saw a dip in attendance so severe that the day will likely not count as a school day -- instead it will count as a snow day.

In order to count, 75-percent of the student body must be in school. On Friday, John Helmholdt, executive director of communications & external affairs, confirmed only 70-percent were in attendance on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Schools with the highest absences, mostly around 50-percent include Buchanan Elementary, Cesar E. Chavez Elementary, Westwood Middle, Harrison Park School, Burton Elementary and Middle, Union High, Innovation Central High and SWCC.

Related: 'Day Without Immigrants' planned for Thursday

The district sent home a letter to parents Wednesday discouraging them from keeping their children home.

It reads:

Thank you for your commitment to your child’s education. We are proud to partner with you to provide your child with an important foundation for their future.

We are aware of a planned immigration protest for this Thursday that includes keeping students out of school. We believe that all people have the right to voice their opinion and make a stand for their beliefs. However, we also believe that it is important that children are in school, on time, every day, ready to learn. When a child misses school, for any reason, they miss a chance to learn and grow. We hope that we can count on you to send your child to school each and every day, including Thursday.

Our school, along with Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Office of Equity and Inclusion, is proud to support all students and ensure that everyone has access to a high quality education, regardless of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, religion, gender, national origin, language, or immigration status. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Office of Equity and Inclusion at 819-2129 or email brownm@grps.org.

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Grand Rapids Public schools was not the only district affected by today's protest.

Godfrey Lee Public Schools in Wyoming saw a significant drop in attendance with 52-percent of students showed up for classes today. The superintendent says the district will lose 23-percent in state funding as a result. The district must reach at least 75-percent attendance to receive all of their funding. School officials will be meeting to make a decision on whether to give up the funding or declare the day a snow day.

According to school records, 68-percent of Godfrey Lee's student population is Hispanic.

In addition, Godwin Heights school district did not have 75-percent of students in school today either. The superintendent estimates there were about 67-percent of students in attendance. The district will have to either give up some of their state funding for the day, count the day as a snow day or add a day to the school year. The superintendent and other administrators have not yet decided on what they will do.

The superintendent of Wyoming Public Schools says the district did not see a significant drop in attendance and were well about the 75-percent threshold. Holland schools attendance was down about 5-percent. Neither districts funding were impacted. 

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