education during COVID | Michigan Radio
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education during COVID

A sign of the University of Michigan Central Campus
Anna Schlutt / Michigan Radio

During the past year, many universities have seen high rates of COVID-19 on or around their campuses. Academic institutions in Michigan and throughout the U.S. have faced challenging questions and criticism with regard to their decision-making in an unprecedented public health crisis. And often, university students and their behaviors — like attending social gatherings or even simply living in group housing — have played a role in spreading the virus at their schools.

Boys & Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan

Today, on Stateside, why getting schools on board to reopen has not been easy in some of the state’s larger districts. Plus, metro Detroit teens learn entrepreneurship and activism through social justice fashion design.

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Today on Stateside, we look back at the pandemic year in K-12 education. We check in with the superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools about hopes to return to classrooms in 2021 and what else the new year may bring. Also, we talk to two experts about what educational divides that widened during the pandemic. Plus, we’ve gathered voices of teachers who share their first-hand experiences teaching this year.

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A recent order from Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services requires remote learning to continue for public high school and college students amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And while some districts offer face-to-face teaching for younger students, a number of larger districts—like in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor—have opted for virtual school at all grade levels. But now a group of physicians is urging the Ann Arbor local school board to open up in-person instruction for elementary and special education students.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

At least 1,412 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed as part of new or ongoing outbreaks across 27 schools, according to data released by the state for the first time on Monday.

The vast majority of outbreaks (defined as two or more cases with shared exposure on school grounds) are among college students, who account for 20 of the total reported outbreaks and 1,370 of all school cases. (Two of the colleges, Adrian College and Calvin University, said their outbreaks included staff as well as students, but those numbers weren’t broken down.)

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Today on Stateside, state health officials report that there are currently 14 COVID-19 outbreaks in Southeast Michigan associated with schools, but they won’t say which ones. A reporter talks us through how the health department shares—and retains—information on outbreaks. Also, the story behind the viral video of U.S. Postal Service mail sorter machines being scrapped in Grand Rapids. Plus, a new podcast documents the history of the Ford Bronco.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a press conference holding a "vote" sign
State of Michigan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she’s aware there’s a growing urgency to making back-to-school plans. But she says it’s still too early to make final decisions on a return to in-school learning. Whitmer said those decisions will depend on the rates of COVID-19 deaths and infections in different parts of the state.

A long table surrounded by red chairs in a school classroom.
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Grand Rapids Public Schools says it plans to have online-only instruction for the first nine weeks of the school year.

Superintendent Leadrianne Roby says the district will follow the state’s guidance and decide whether to return to in-person teaching in October.

teacher pointing at board in front of classroom full of children
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School districts are rolling out plans for the fall with two main strategies taking form – all online or a hybrid approach that includes some digital learning and some in-person classroom learning. With this information some parents are considering creating learning “pods" with other families. Pulling their kids away from public school options and paying private teachers to come into a home or space and teach just a few kids in person.