It's been an almost unthinkable time since March when all the shades were drawn and the halls fell silent in Muskegon Area Schools. Who would have ever for a second imagined that we'd see such a thing that would change the way almost everything was done from work to shopping, community events and even worship services. It's been almost like an episode of The Twilight Zone and no group has been more effected than our students and educators. Everything in their daily lives got turned upside down when they order was given to close the schools and figure out "distance learning" to wrap up the school year.
Well, it happened. Sure, we saw some lost proms, drive thru diploma pick up's, socially distanced "live streamed" graduations and virtual Honors Assemblies, but behind the scenes, the rubber hit the road with the administrations of our area school systems and the educators that make them up and in some cases, the playbook was totally re-written to prepare for the unknown when it comes to the Fall of 2020 and what was to be on our COVID timeline. It's a timeline that continues to redefine itself and every district has crafted a plan that they feel is best suited to their students and families and at this point, we're in the starting blocks and waiting to hear that first bell ring on the year.
At Muskegon Public Schools, Superintendent Matthew Cortez had a huge challenge in front of him like so many others. Coming off an incredible gift from area voters with the bond proposal for building improvements and athletic field work, a curve ball like a pandemic could be seen as a chance to hit the brakes, but Cortex and staff took the other route and went after it harder to assure that their learners would get the adequate experience no matter how the return was implemented. Distance learning is how the year will begin, with every day starting off with a ZOOM classroom where attendance will be taken followed by afternoon work on the lessons taught and the option for those who may need some one on one attention to come to the school in limited small groups to get the help they need. This process will be reviewed monthly and when the feeling that the safety of the students, staff and families of the district are all secure, rolling back into the classroom will be seamless. Same holds true if they do attempt to go back and are forced to return to distance learning due to an outbreak.
There will also be the essentials met. School breakfasts and lunches will be delivered or picked up if need be. There will be days for pick up of the essential Chromebooks for all grade levels and there are ways too to assure that any student needing access to the internet for distance learning can get it. There are protocols in place for staff to check up on students who might not be showing up on time or often to the distance learning sessions and the functionality of education has found some ways to dramatically improve through having their hand forced during the time of COVID. If you click on the photo to the right, you can learn about everything from Return to Learn, to food delivery to Chromebooks and more.
It's a situation no one ever wanted to be placed in, but with action, determination and an attitude of "we can", Muskegon Public Schools has found a pretty incredible way to make the best of it all and Matthew Cortez explains it in our chat below. Take a listen.
So, it's pretty clear to see after hearing the insiders point of view everything that had to go into how schools decide to reopen. From the way family living situations are maintained, to the buildings themselves with ventilation and size of space they have to work in. A logistical and technological mountain to climb, but for Muskegon Public Schools, it all seems at the ready. Ideal? Well, probably not for all, but a great deal of gratitude and appreciation goes to the administration, staff and families of the district as the restart is only a few weeks away. We wish all of our schools a safe return and our most sincere thanks for all they do for our communities as a whole. We entrust so much to them with our future in their hands. They have all been outstanding in their efforts and appreciation is paramount.