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.

Portage Public Schools experience high COVID-19 outbreak

Portage schools had the highest number of outbreaks of COVID-19 the week of March 15, compared to schools across Michigan 

Portage Central High School had 24 ongoing cases from staff members and students while Portage Central Elementary had 20 ongoing cases from staff and students. 

Portage Central High School Principal Eric Alburtus said many of those cases stemmed from the men and women’s basketball teams starting up their season. 

“We actually shut down our entire basketball program for about a week and a half because every varsity women’s basketball player had the virus except for one,” Albertus said. “On the men’s side, almost half of our varsity and fewer JV and freshman players were either quarantined or tested positive.”  

Portage Central High School is now doing a rapid test weekly for the basketball, cheerleading and wrestling team to ensure another outbreak does not occur. 

“It’s all about communication,” Albertus said. “If the parents and staff continue to communicate with each other and keep letting us know what’s going on in their own families, then we can respond to it.” 

Elementary students in the district have had the option of in-person learning the entire school year, with more students returning each quarter.  

“What we have chosen to do at Portage Public Schools is from the start of the school year our elementary students had the option to go in-person or stay online,” Albertus said. “At each quarter, our families could make that decision to either return to in-person classes or remain remote.” 

Portage Central Elementary offered an in-person option for all elementary students since the start of the school year and never moved exclusively online like many other elementary schools. As a result of this, Portage Central Elementary has 20 ongoing COVID-19 cases, which is much higher than other elementary schools within the last week.  

Community relations manager of Portage Public Schools, Michelle Karpinski said, “we interact with the Health Department each time we are notified of a positive case, to help with contact tracing and to determine who may have been a close contact, who may need to quarantine and for how long, and whether the quarantine affects an individual, the entire classroom or the entire school.” 

The district has many protocols for students who may have been in close contact with someone who tested positive. 

“The Health Department doesn’t recommend our schools do screening for students but recommends that our families screen their child prior to sending them to school or any school activity,” Karpinski said. 

Portage public schools are enacting necessary protocols to prevent any more outbreaks within the district as the state begins to open up.

Novi High School junior’s basketball season cut short by contact tracing

Eva Khalil, starter on the Novi girls varsity basketball team, had  her season cut short due to contact tracing at Novi High School. 

Novi varsity Women’s Basketball instagramEva Khalil, #3 for Novii, playing basketball against Grand Blanc. Khalil has been playing basketball for nine years and is a power forward. Her junior season was quickly taken away from her after sitting next to a classmate who tested positive for COVID-19. 

“They called me down to the attendance office on March 18th, handed me some tissues, and basically said I have to quarantine from school and all activities for 10 days,” Khalil said. 

Khalil’s quarantine will be up on March 27, but that was not soon enough. Khalil missed a crossover game, and a  district playoff game March 24, as well as the district championship on March 26, which Farmington Hills Mercy won, 55-38. “Devastated is an understatement at this point,” Khalil said.

Berkley schools aims for full in-person reopening April 12

The Berkley School District Board of Education posed a new recommendation to re-open for full in-person instruction beginning April 12.

The Return to Learn Plan discussed at the March 8 meeting has been evolving since August.

he board discussed how the district plans to allow students to return to in-person learning safely while following the Center for Disease Control guidelines.

Andrew Wells

East Lansing plans return to in-person learning March 1

East Lansing schools return to in-person learning March 1 after almost a year of remote classes.

East Lansing High School Principal Andrew Wells said, “the learning plan entails an opportunity for students to return to school starting March 1 in a hybrid setting, meaning some of our students will be taught in person and the others who have chosen to do so will remain learning remote.”

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.