Grand Ledge school doors open

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Grand Ledge Public Schools

Madison Stoddard

After being closed for most of the year the Grand Ledge High School, like many other schools in the district, are ready to have some life on March 1.

GRAND LEDGE – Parents, teachers, students, and staff have been waiting for this moment.

After months of deliberation, the Grand Ledge Public Schools are physically open for the first time this year on March 1. 

Since Sept. 8, 2020, all Grand Ledge students have been attending classes virtually Monday through Friday. There is an approximate of about 2,200 to 2,500 students that started in-person learning on March 1. However, about 50% of families in the district have decided to remain virtual through the academic year.

The update on the “GLPS Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan” was held on Monday Feb. 8 at the virtual school board meeting. The topics include the two way learning data log between the interactions with students and teachers, summer school, and the explanation of the metric as a guide representing how the Grand Ledge Public Schools defines safety within the pandemic through primary and secondary indicators.

The primary indicators are the positive rates within Eaton County, new cases per day, and the risk level. The secondary indicators include many things just to name a few, locations of the community spread, vaccines, testing capacity, presence of PPE in the district.

Director of Communications John Ellsworth said that on March 1 students are back in school if they have been selected to participate in in-person classes for the second semester. 

The district broke it down for families into “phases.” In the “red phase” all students are virtual and the “yellow phase” families are allowed to opt-in their students for in-person learning but they will be split up into cohorts going only two days a week. The third phase is the “green phase”, which may start third trimester, Apr. 12 will open up the schools to anyone interested in in-person learning to attend five days a week without cohorts. This phase has not been fully developed yet at this time. 

To make the 30 student classrooms smaller, the students were put into cohorts. Each cohort comes for two days: The first cohort contains students with last names A-K attending Monday and Wednesday. The second cohort are students with last names L-Z Tuesdays and Thursdays; Fridays are virtual. The days they are not in school they continue regular virtual learning. 

“The cohorting by only half of the students in the building really allows us to do a lot of the social distancing” said Ellsworth. Masks are required to enter any building and sanitation stations are placed throughout the halls. 

Hayes Middle School Principal David Kushman said he and his staff are ready when it comes to preparing for students to enter the building. “Nothing but smiles” from the students, states Kushman. The middle school held a seventh grade orientation on Feb. 23 and 24 for a two hour period so students can be familiar with their new school.  

“There will be a lot of presence in the hallways” when students do return, he said. They will have more staff that are available to help navigate students to their destination and lowers the stress on the first day. 

“This is our family, this is our team we’re together through thick and thin”, this is the motto for third grade teacher Chris Terranova at Willow Ridge Elementary. Every day at the beginning of class for 15 minutes Terranova puts his students into a “Friendship Zoom” that sends them to a breakout room and they talk about the rules of the class and get a chance to socialize. Terranova emphasizes the importance of the social and emotional aspects when teaching even through a computer screen.

 Terranova is also a parent of three and two of them are currently in the district.

 “I am happy with what Grand Ledge is doing. My kids are engaged and they enjoy school.” 

Very early on, in November families took surveys based on choices of returning to in-person classes or to remain virtual. His kids will not be going back on March 1 but they will go back for the third trimester in April. When the third trimester starts in April It will give parents another opportunity to send their children to in-person learning.

Erica Deters is a special education teacher for fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students at Willow Ridge who qualify for special services. Deters feels better about returning to the classroom because teaching virtually can be challenging at times. “How do you teach plotting coordinates virtually?” said Deters.

Deters is also a parent of three Grand Ledge students and she stated from a parent prospective “the teachers really have done a good job.” Grand Ledge has purchased an online learning management system called Buzz. This is set up for students to communicate with their teachers, attend Zoom classes, find their lessons, and submit their work. “They are in a good routine” when attending school virtually so they will not be going back to school. Her children are still seeing friends and are involved in sports to keep those social relationships with one another. 

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