Rockford superintendent stands by online start to school year

ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — Rockford Public Schools is hitting pause on plans for the upcoming school year, pushing back the start of face-to-face instruction by three weeks.  

Superintendent Dr. Mike Shibler said the school board was unanimous in approving the district’s return-to-learn plan on Monday.  

As discussed in recent weeks, the plan includes two options: allowing parents to choose between face-to-face instruction and Rockford Virtual, the district’s online program.  

The plan approved by the board included one notable change.  

“For the first 12 days of school, from Aug. 24 through Sept. 11, we’re going to be teaching online,” Shibler said.  

Shibler said while the decision to begin the year offering online learning only took some families by surprise, he stands by his decision. He said all students and teachers will be required to spend those first three weeks of the school year partaking in online classes.  

“Why did I change my recommendation for those first 12?,” Shibler said. “Because the pandemic is not consistent, the pandemic changes all the time.” 

In a memo to parents, Shibler gave three reasons behind the change, noting a recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases reported in Michigan, the governor’s latest extension of the state of emergency and the district’s responsibility for the safety of all students and staff. 

When asked what will happen if the circumstances are no different following the three-week delay, Shibler responded, “I’m drawing the line in the sand.”  

“We are going to start with students in the classroom on Sept. 14 (and) the only way that will change is if the governor issues an executive order that changes Michigan from phase four to phase three,” Shibler said.   

Rockford Public Schools’ full return-to-learn plan can be found online.