We are almost finished with summer and that means a new school year is just around the corner. Last year, Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) pivoted to provide students in the district with meaningful online learning opportunities, technology, and increased social and emotional supports.
With students returning to school at the end of the month, Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri, superintendent of KPS, and her staff are excited to move forward into the coming school year.
“I am very proud of how we led through the pandemic,” Raichoudhuri said. “Even though it was a difficult year, we were able to launch several programs.”
Career Launch Kalamazoo is a multi-pronged approach to career education and apprenticeships that connects students with high-wage, in-demand jobs in information technology, healthcare, and manufacturing. The initiative’s business partners include Bronson Healthcare Group, Flowserve, and Mann+Hummel.
Another new initiative for KPS has been the Equity Task Force. Formed in partnership with the National Equity Project, this effort allows students to make a difference in their community by learning how to become equity advocates. The students will work with task force members to review KPS practices and policies through an equity lens.
“Whenever we look to do equity work, it needs to be ingrained in how we think about the world, how we make policies," Raichoudhuri explained. “The intention of this program is to bring all stakeholders to the table alongside the 30 participating students.”
Last year, the district also learned how some students thrive in a virtual learning environment. The district took that experience and used it to create a virtual school for students who wish to continue learning online.
“We found that about 10 percent of our students did better when learning virtually,” Raichoudhuri revealed. “Many self-guided learners, persons with autism, and those with physical limitations thrived in this system. All students learned to email their teachers and self-advocate.”
This fall, 4 percent of KPS students will participate in virtual learning while the other 96 percent will return to in-person classrooms. Extensive health and safety guidelines, including a mask mandate, are in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses.
To ensure everyone remains healthy, Raichoudhuri encourages families to conduct a health screening every morning before coming to school. It is a practice that is also being asked of all KPS staff.
“Safety begins at home,” she explained. “We need both our students and their parents to help launch the plan. We don’t want the upcoming year to present the hardships of being on and off with in-person learning. As the second largest district in West Michigan, everything we do has a ripple effect. At our size, we cannot make changes on a dime due to how they may impact the various needs of our student population.”
The community is encouraged to partner with the schools and to do its part to keep students safe by following safety protocols before entering KPS school buildings this year. There will be a limit on visitors to the buildings, and those that do visit are required to have proof of vaccination and to wear a mask.
Everyone is encouraged to read the Acceleration Plan for more details on the district’s COVID-19 response strategies to the learning needs of students.
“Our Acceleration Plan is focused on four areas,” Raichoudhuri said. “Social and emotional health, assessing where learning needs are and supporting them, tiered interventions, and engaging the community and our partners in supporting our work.”
In the upcoming school year, KPS hopes to refrain from overloading students with standardized testing unless it is necessary.
Ultimately, KPS wants to make 2021-22 as normal as possible for students. Ensuring the health and happiness of each student will help in maintaining this normalcy.
We appreciate Dr. Raichoudhuri for keeping our readers updated on Kalamazoo Public Schools. For more information on the upcoming school year, visit the KPS website.