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.

Michigan high school students adjust to in-person classes

In-person high school classes in Michigan came back March 1, but in April, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was encouraging schools to go virtual again. East Lansing Public Schools have been offering in-person instruction for middle school and high school since March 1. 

John Sword, a sophomore at East Lansing High School, said online school came with a lot of difficulties and was hard to keep up with. After transitioning back to in-person classes, Sword said he feels incredible. 

He appreciates having an actual schedule and believes that in-person classes allow students to focus more and are easier to pay attention to. He also said the social aspect of high school improved greatly when they got back. “It felt amazing because I recently got my license and I was able to drive my friends to school and do all the fun stuff,” Sword said.

East Lansing High School teachers discuss struggles of teaching two groups of students at once

East Lansing teachers have had mixed reactions since going back to in-person classes March 1. Cody Harrell teaches advanced and regular freshman English and advises the newspaper and yearbook. After his first full week back, he didn’t feel that great. “Teaching to two audiences at the same time… is very difficult,” Harrell said. “Because that’s where we’re at, we’re teaching online and in person students the same curriculum at the same time.”

The school provides two monitors and document cameras to help teachers instruct two separate audiences at the same time.

Portrait of Debbie Walton

East Lansing School Board, like students, plans to get back to in-person work

East Lansing’s school board might follow students’ example and resume in-person meetings.

Trustee Debbie Walton proposed at the board’s Feb. 22 meeting that, with students heading back to school, board members head back to live meetings. She noted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s string recommendation that school open by March 1. It was Whitmer who, in March 2020, issued an order exempting school boards from the Michigan’s Open Meetings Act’s requirement that they meet in person.

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.

Let us play: High school athletes rally at the Capitol to restart sports seasons

Michigan high school athletes and supporters rallied at the Capitol Jan. 30, appealing to the governor to end the COVID postponement of sports

A young crowd, mostly masked, was peaceful, in contrast to recent rallies at this and other Capitols. The students said that sports keep them engaged in school, lift their mental health in dark times and help some of them get into college.

Several who attended said they would like Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to acknowledge their #letusplay #letthemplay peaceful demonstration and their demand for a quick return to sports.