Parents rally for face-to-face learning in Grosse Pointe schools

While Detroit parents have protested against in-person summer school classes in recent weeks, Grosse Pointe parents rallied for the opposite Sunday. 

More than 100 people including families who brought their young children and dogs, marched about three quarters of a mile to protest the Grosse Pointe Public School System’s recent decision to start all students in remote learning for the upcoming school year. 

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“We’re not saying open the schools tomorrow, you know, 100% face to face, we understand that’s probably not reasonable, but we want to know what are we working towards or where is the data that we’re using to get us there,” said Tracy Skupien, one of the organizers of the march and a parent of two students at Grosse Pointe South High School. “We have to start living our life sometime.”

GPPSS is offering families two options for the 2020-21 school year. Parents can choose between OneGP,  a 100% remote learning option, or GPPSS Traditional, which will allow student to return to face-to-face learning once the district deems it safe enough, according to the district website. 

Both options will require students to start the year remotely. 

“We all want to get to full time in-person teaching and learning. We will follow the guidelines and safety protocols to get there.  It is going to take a major flattening of the curve or a vaccine for full time in-person learning to happen. This is not easy, but we believe it is what’s best for kids,” said Gary Niehaus, GPPSS superintendent, in a letter he posted online. 

The march, which was organized by Skupien and another parent, Kelly Gill, started on Cadieux Road and Kercheval Avenue near Maire Elementary School. Families continued the march down Kercheval to Grosse Pointe South High School. 

Demonstrators held signs that read “flatten the fear” and “school is essential” while yelling chants such as “shame on our school board.” 

Skupien said she and a group of other in-person learning supporters wrote a letter with 500 signatures demanding answers from the school board on why there isn’t a clear option for students to have face-to-face classes. The group plans on presenting the letter at a virtual school board meeting on Monday. 

“I’m a stay-at-home mom and I’m not a teacher … and I don’t want to blur the line between being a parent, and being the teacher because it’s a very different role and it’s very difficult for me. They need a professional person, said Katie Tompkins, 39, whose three children attend Maire Elementary. “I don’t want my kids sitting in front of a screen for three hours a day.”

The semester is set to start Sept. 8 for GPPSS. Staff, families, and students will have access to additional training on remote learning, Niehaus said in his letter. 

GPPSS families received the letter in an email July 31 and Skupien said it came as a surprise as some thought in-person learning would be made available sooner.

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