Questions linger as GRPS readies for hybrid learning

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Several weeks into the school year, some West Michigan classrooms remain online only, others are in person and more yet are adopting a hybrid model, including Grand Rapids Public Schools.

“We thought the snow days a couple of years ago, when we had 15 to 16 snow days was a wrinkle in curriculum? This has been the ultimate challenge,” Rockford High School teacher Kyle Kennett.

Virtual learning has turned teachers into content creators and tech support experts.

“One thing I’ve been proud of with my colleagues is the ability to adapt, at least from the secondary perspective,” he said. “I honestly don’t know how the elementary teachers can do this and keep this up.”

The lower grade levels are where most of the concern is focused.

“If I was a parent with a first grader or a second grader, I can’t imagine the challenge,” Kennett said.

A mother of a GRPS second grader says she has seen it all.

“Just kind of finding all the letters, typing one word was taking a long time,” said Keri Milkovich, whose son attends Coit Creative Arts Elementary School. “He’s gotten a lot better about that, but having to learn those skills so young is a lot for kids.”

GRPS sent a commitment form out to students through email, giving parents two options for the next marking period: continue virtual learning or start a hybrid model, which would put kids back into classrooms at least two days a week.

“If we keep him virtual full-time, then he may miss out on that one-on-one interaction with the teacher, you know?” Milkovich said. “He will miss out on seeing his friends, he’ll miss out on that experience of just being in school. He misses that.”

Parents have until Sept. 28 to make a decision, but they still have a lot of unanswered questions.

“What do the classroom sizes look like?” Milkovich wondered. “Is it going to be reduced classroom sizes? Are they still going to go to the lunchroom? Are there going to be staggered playground times? How much interaction are they going to have with other classrooms?”

While she doesn’t know what’s ahead, she remains confident that the answers will present themselves.

“Nobody knows exactly the right way to do all of this — it’s new. We haven’t done a full school year during a pandemic before so I really think that they’re just making the best decisions they can as they’re going along,” she said.

GRPS sent out a news release Tuesday night, providing more information on the hybrid learning plan.

Technical help for filling out the online commitment form is available at GRPS call center at 616.301.1111.