Grand Rapids Public Schools opts to begin school year with distance learning

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Grand Rapids Public Schools will be having all of its classes held virtually for the first nine weeks of the 2020-21 school year, starting Aug. 25.

The decision comes after two surveys were conducted by parents and staff. In June, the district received nearly 4,000 responses to a KISD survey, and it found that 71% of GRPS parents were extremely or very confident that distance learning would be the safest.

The latest survey, which was completed last week, found that of the nearly 7,000 parents who represent more than 12,000 students, 48% chose distance learning as the most preferred option, followed by hybrid at 26% and in-person at 25%.

That survey also found that of nearly 1,000 staff members, 53% most preferred distance learning, followed by 25% for hybrid and 33% for in-person learning.

“Based on the data, we are recommending that we start back to school 100% distance learning for the first marking period, which goes until Oct. 21,” GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby said. “During that nine-week period of time, we will continuously assess our decision and will be prepared for a potential in-person or hybrid return to school.”

The school district is now launching a new virtual plan that increases synchronous direct instruction for the elementary and secondary levels.

There will be one-to-one devices for all GRPS students with supports for internet access and also new digital literacy classes through Parent University.

“We will be providing resources to ensure all students have reliable internet access,” Roby said. “Parent University is in the process of developing digital literacy training for parents, and we will continue to provide technical support for students and parents.”

Instead of online learning, students with special needs will be provided with support and material packets.

“We are establishing a “Family Helpdesk” for just-in-time support for families,” Roby said. “The Family Helpdesk will be staffed to respond to general questions of all types, including technology questions, student passwords and more.”

Parents can reach the helpdesk at (616) 819-2000 or email distancelearninghelpdesk@grps.org.

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