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Tuesday classes canceled at Muskegon Heights High School

A letter to parents says the cancellation is due to "concerns about various occurrences" at the high school.

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — Classes at Muskegon Heights High School will be canceled Tuesday, according to a letter sent to parents by principal Erica Patton.

The letter says the cancellation is due to "concerns about various occurrences" at the high school. All other schools in the district will remain open.

This comes after a special meeting was held at the high school Monday night, where staff, parents and community members expressed concern about the teacher shortage, curriculum and other issues at the high school.

Parents also protested what they viewed as a lack of transparency from the school district before the meeting. 

In one instance, a teacher in the district reported fewer than a dozen certified teachers working inside the high school. Parents also expressed concern about safety in the schools, claiming students were getting into fights in hallways.  

In a statement, the district claimed most classrooms were fully staffed with certified teachers, though it acknowledged the effects of the national teacher shortage. 

The meeting also saw frustration directed toward New Paradigm, the Detroit-based charter school management firm that took over in August. During public comment, a teacher said the non-profit in charge of the district has left them understaffed.

New Paradigm founder Ralph Bland said the district was working to attract and hire new talent to address the teacher shortage.

The members of the board went into a closed session to discuss the future of their contract with New Paradigm. While they could not address what was said, they strongly hinted the partnership would come to an end soon.

Last week, the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System released a statement addressing parents' concerns: 

Like most school districts, charter schools, and businesses across the country, Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System is currently experiencing a staffing shortage. Despite this, we are working with our management company New Paradigm for Education and have staffed nearly all of our classrooms with teachers with valid certificates or permits in compliance with Michigan law. We are committed to our students’ education and are working to fill any vacancies with qualified, competent teachers and staff as soon as possible. 

Our leadership team is in the process of procuring our curriculum materials for the school year. Much of those curriculum materials have already been provided to the teachers, either physically or electronically, and the remainder is being secured for distribution. 

Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System and New Paradigm for Education have always encouraged communication and have done our best to share information in a timely and efficient manner. The hiring of New Paradigm for Education was done on a compressed timeline and there are logistical issues still being worked out during the transition to a new management company. However, both the System and New Paradigm are working to constantly improve all our process, including the sharing of information and communication, and we will continue to do so.

Another meeting with both school boards is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. It will be held at the Board of Education building in Muskegon Heights.

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