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Cedar Springs back to school plan

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs Public Schools recently announced their back to school safe start plan, and it includes two options for families to choose from: full in-person instruction or virtual online learning. 

They have asked parents to let them know by this Friday, August 14, which plan they will choose for their children. “It’s mostly for planning,” explained Cedar Springs Superintendent Scott Smith. “We need to make staffing decisions.”

The district plans to reopen for in-person instruction on Tuesday, September 8. They have tried to make in-person instruction as safe as possible. “We are working with community partners including Kent Intermediate School District and Spectrum Health to ensure decisions are being carefully considered and recommendations vetted,” Smith said in the document given to parents and approved by the Board of Education. “We relied on current medical best practices released by the CDC, national guidance, and support from other organizations to build the most comprehensive and safe plan possible. The plan was also vetted and approved by the CSPS Board of Education. In addition, our legal counsel has reviewed and advised the material contained in the plan.”

The plan varies according to which phase we are in. For phase 4/5, all students K-12, will have the option of either in-person instruction with safeguards (such as social distancing, masks, handwashing, etc.) or virtual learning. They are asking for a commitment of one semester to whichever plan they choose. “The pacing is slightly different on the two plans and not seamless,” explained Smith. 

Masks will be required for all students K-12 and staff, except when eating, and mask breaks will be given to elementary children. Hand sanitizing stations will be set up in classrooms, and desks disinfected at the end of each class period. Lunch will take place in various places besides the cafeteria and food will be pre-plated.

Parents will be asked to monitor their child’s symptoms at home.

For children who have health issues or for those parents who feel uncomfortable sending children back to school, they can choose the fully online learning. It will consist of at-home learning with CSPS teachers or mentors and online content and will be a semester commitment. It will be graded. It is recommended more for those children who are highly motivated or have a strong support system at home. 

So far, about 85 percent have chosen in-person instruction and 15 percent online instruction.

The Post asked Smith if virtual learning might remain an option even after masks and other safeguards are no longer needed. “There are going to be things we learn from this that make us stronger in the future,” he remarked. “I could see us moving forward with that as long as there is a demand. It could be looked on as a very positive thing; it has the flexibility of doing any work anywhere at any time. The downside is the student is not as actively engaged as in person. It depends on the drive of the learner. Our goal is to provide a robust experience with both online and in-person instruction.”

Smith said feedback from parents has been positive. “Parents just want information. There have been a lot of questions. Many have experienced appreciation as well as frustration, and we understand that because we don’t have all the answers ourselves.”

For those who want to read the full plan approved by the board, click the link below:

School Covid Preparedness Plan CSPS– Fall 2020.pdf

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