GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The largest district in West Michigan has been back to school virtually for 3-weeks. Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) made the decision to start the year with 9-weeks of online learning.
The district recently held a series of virtual listening sessions, with each of its schools hosting their own. That's where students, parents, and staff gave their feedback on the distance learning plan.
John Helmholdt, the executive director of communications for GRPS, said all things considered, the start of school has gone smoothly.
Attendance has increased daily, to above 80%. Although that number is lower than a normal year, they’re encouraged by the level of participation.
Helmholdt said the biggest challenges have centered around technology and internet access. It’s still working to distribute devices to all student as well as wireless hotspots, as needed.
This fall, the district tripled synchronous learning-time compared to the end of spring, but parents requested even more time for teachers to be live with students.
“I think that's also part of an increased call to see us begin to shift toward an in-person or hybrid in-person version of teaching and learning, which we will be sharing more information in the coming weeks,” Helmholdt said.
GRPS is planning for all scenarios at the end of the 9-weeks, whether it be all virtual again, in-person, or a hybrid of the two.
Meanwhile, teachers are taking this time to work together, and tackle technology.
“There is a higher level of collaborative planning across grade levels within schools where they're able to share content and share lesson plans," Helmholdt said. "Now that they've gotten to know the platforms, and know how to do this virtual learning, it is significantly increasing the way that our teachers are using technology.”
This week GRPS is responding to other feedback about the current plan, by distributing more physical materials like textbooks and work pages.
Each month the district presents its plan to the board of education for re-approval. That’s when it’ll incorporate any changes, from the listening sessions.
There’s still a chance for you to share your feedback, during a district-wide virtual listening session Thursday, Sept. 17, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Here's what you need to log onto Zoom for the GRPS Parent/Community Listening Session:
Telephone: +1 312 626 6799
Webinar ID: 844 7432 8391 Passcode: 777934
It will also be recorded and posted to the district website, social media and sent via email.
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