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Safety Meets Education

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Smart and Safe

School will look different at Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) this fall as the district starts the 2020-21 school year next week. We thought it would be helpful to walk through the district’s back-to-school plan.

An important thing to know before looking in-depth at the district’s Smart and Safe Start back-to-school plan is that all decisions were made with safety as the prime directive. The KPS leadership team followed best practices that were recommended by state health officials while also giving families options to decide on a plan that works best for their child and family.

Students will have a choice between a tiered progression toward full in-person learning or two completely virtual learning experiences through either KPS or the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (KRESA).

“Families can choose between a tiered plan (Option 1), in which students begin online-only, move to a hybrid learning plan after Thanksgiving, and finish the school year with in-person classes,” KPS Superintendent Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri explained. ”The move to hybrid and in-person learning will be dependent on health guidelines at the time and we will only move to those tiers if it is safe to do so.

“Families may also select Option 2 to enroll their students in online-only learning for the entire school year, choosing between the KPS Kalamazoo Virtual Learning Path, which utilizes online programs from Calvert Learning (Grades K-8) and GradPoint (Grades 9-12), or the KRESA Kalamazoo Virtual & Innovative Collaborative, which uses Lincoln Learning (Grades K-5) and Michigan Virtual (Grades 6-12).”

Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri

Regardless of which plan is chosen, students will attend class virtually for the first trimester.

Due to this decision, KPS has taken steps to ensure that all families have functional internet access. Thousands of Chromebooks were distributed to students last spring and more were given to families this month. Efforts are also in place to establish or fortify the students’ home internet connections.

“Earlier this summer, the district partnered with the Kalamazoo Public Library, The Kalamazoo Promise, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, and the City of Kalamazoo’s Foundation for Excellence to form the Digital Access for All partnership, which will provide digital hotspots to 1,000 families,” Raichoudhuri shared.

To help support the logistics of online learning, KPS culture coaches have created resources and strategies to assist families. These measures include online chat groups, special technical services centers, and opportunities for students to socialize online. Additionally, academically talented programs, special education services, small group experiences, dual enrollment, and advanced placement classes will be available to students in a variety of formats. Staff is also hard at work making sure important social connections are maintained.

“A close relationship between students and teachers is crucial for the development of social-emotional learning in young minds,” Nkenge Bergan, KPS’ Director of Student Services stated. “Our staff is hard at work developing methods to continue to establish and grow these important relationships while everyone is learning virtually and practicing social distancing.”

Nkenge Bergan

Ultimately, KPS’ plan addresses as many concerns as possible regarding students’ educational and socio-emotional needs while also providing flexibility to each family. It is comforting to have a school district that has so thoroughly planned for such an unfamiliar obstacle and is excited to welcome students and families back for another year of learning. For more information regarding the Smart and Safe Start back-to-school plan, visit KPS’ website.

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