Schools are closed for the rest of the year. Newaygo County superintendents have been meeting regularly since schools were closed preparing for this moment and are targeting April 20 to launch a distance learning program. “We share the Governor’s highest priority right now to protect our Newaygo County students and their families from the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Lori Tubbergen Clark, NC RESA and Big Jackson Public School Superintendent.
Grant Superintendent Brett Zuver added that “Our focus in planning for this closure has been to balance a transition to online learning with accessibility for students who lack resources at home. Schools are doing their best to offer online learning, while also developing a plan for those who need low-tech options due to poor Internet connectivity or lack of devices.”
“We have federal and legal requirements to ensure that we’re equitably serving all students,” said Vaughn White, Superintendent of Hesperia Community Schools. “An instructional plan will be implemented to continue learning opportunities for all students.”
Some schools will also be making curriculum packets available in conjunction with meal sites and delivery programs for families who might not have access to Internet or a home printer. Free learning materials for each grade will also be available through www.ncresa.org/learn.
“Our teachers are helping us to develop learning opportunities and we greatly appreciate the collaboration that’s being done,” White Cloud Superintendent Ed Canning added. “We all acknowledge that our devoted teachers are trying to make this process as easy as possible.”
“Undertaking remote access, distance learning, high- and low-tech options all in the course of a few weeks is significant. We’re going to ask for a little bit of patience and understanding,” said Newaygo Superintendent Dr. Peg Mathis. “We know that these plans cannot begin to substitute the quality of a face-to-face classroom.”
“Newaygo County schools are prepared to provide our students with creative and unique opportunities to continue their education while schools are closed,” added Fremont Superintendent Ken Haggart.
Digital poverty is high among students in Newaygo County. Each Newaygo County school surveyed families on if they have access to the Internet and/or usable devices at home. Approximately 48% of the students do not have access to Internet that can support online learning, and 41% do not have a tech device. “A moment like this puts the structural deficiency that we have in Newaygo County in a spotlight. Our vulnerable students become more vulnerable with limited access to food, health and virtual learning opportunities,” said Tubbergen Clark.
Teachers will be reaching out at least on a weekly basis and will be inviting students to respond directly in order to facilitate meaningful two-way engagement.
Here’s a summary of what we know to date:
• Students will not receive grades or assessments for the online learning.
• Attendance will not be taken daily. Homework and project assignments will be checked.
• No state testing for students: Students will not be taking the M-STEP, PSAT, or SAT at school this year.
• All students who were on track to be promoted to the next grade or graduate will still do so.
• Students will not be penalized in any way if they are unable to complete assignments due to lack of resources.
• All Newaygo County local districts are brainstorming how and when to hold graduation ceremonies later this summer, if allowed to do so by the State of Michigan.
Weekly conversations amongst teachers, support staff and their students will help school officials know how they are doing academically, socially, and emotionally.