Virtual kindergarten has been a struggle for throughout Michigan

Michigan school enrollment fell by 53,000 students during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Of those students, 13,000 were in kindergarten. 

According to Chalkbeat Detroit, Detroit Public Schools lost 2,719 or 5% of students, Lansing Public Schools lost 927 or 9% of students, Kalamazoo Public Schools lost 690 or 5% of students, and Traverse City has lost 552 or 6% of students. 

The decline in kindergarten enrollment is concerning to teachers, principals, administrators, and parents across four districts in Michigan. 

Principals say the slide is continuing

Gier Park Elementary in Lansing has grades Pre-K-3 and Principal Christopher Cadogan has seen decreases in enrollment. Photo courtesy Christopher Cadogan. “If we just look at last year, the 2019 to 2020 school year, we ended that year with 84 kindergarteners,” Cadogan said. “This year we’re at 75 and it’s not the end of the school year.”

Comparing this to the 2018-2019 school year, Cadogan said the school had even more students at 97 and you can really see the contrast between then and now. 

Cadogan said kindergarten teaches developmental lessons and tries to provide students with the basic and foundational principles of reading and numeracy.

High school class of 2020 misses an entire year of activities

The high school class of 2020 missed out on many of spring activities including prom, graduation, honors assemblies, senior skip day, after schools transitioned to virtual learning.

The class of 2021 did not lose just half a semester but a year’s worth of activities.

In addition to missing staple senior year activities, virtual learning caused some students to struggle academically.

Laingsburg schools offer in-person and virtual learning

Last March, all students from kindergarteners to college students were sent home to finish the remainder of the school year virtually. While some schools continued virtual learning for the school year, other schools implemented some in-person learning.

Laingsburg Elementary School offers online and in-person learning. Students that opted for in-person learning meet with their teacher in the morning. Teachers use the afternoon to record videos and prepare online content for their virtual students.

What top Michigan teachers say must happen for safe in-person classes

In January, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she wished to see Michigan K-12 schools return to in-person instruction by March 1. Several of the state’s best K-12 front-line instructors, designated as top teachers in various award competitions, say how they think that can happen safely. Some have already been teaching in person. Others are waiting to return. Janine Scott

Janine Scott, Davis Aerospace Technical High School, Detroit, Michigan, Region 10 Michigan Teacher of the Year 2020-2021, 11th grade math teacher

“So, I am teaching virtually now, no in-class, and the governor said that she would like for all schools to have something open for kids.

Award-winning teachers say what a longer post-COVID school year would need

Michigan Schools Superintendent Michael Rice has floated the idea that, to help students catch up on instruction lost during the COVOD-19 pandemic, the 2021-2022 school year be extended.

Here, award-winning teachers from throughout Michigan react to or propose ideas for that suggestion.