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Community updates: Monday, July 27

Grand Rapids Public Schools starting school year online-only for first nine weeks; Grand Rapids Community College extends fall tuition due date, reduces parking fees to help students during pandemic; and more.
Grand Rapids Public Schools made the decision to start the school year in virtual form after receiving stakeholder feedback.

Grand Rapids Public Schools made the decision to start the school year in virtual form after receiving stakeholder feedback. /Steven Depolo

Grand Rapids Public Schools starting school year online-only for first nine weeks

Grand Rapids Public Schools’ (GRPS) Superintendent, Leadriane Roby, announced on Monday that the school district plans to start the 2020-21 school year online-only for the first nine weeks.

The online-only format, also known as distance learning, will remain in place for the first marking period which goes until October 21. Between the school year’s August 25 start and the October date, the district will assess its decision and prepare for a potential in-person or hybrid return to school.

“We said that the health, safety, and well being of our students and staff would be our top priority in decision making,” Roby said in a Monday letter to parents, guardians, and staff. “I believe starting with distance learning is the safest approach to the start of school.”

GRPS made the decision to start the school year in virtual form after receiving stakeholder feedback, which included a majority of parents and guardians saying distance learning was their most preferred option in a July survey.

Distance learning was one of three options developed by GRPS for the fall, after Gov. Whitmer issued her Return to School Roadmap and June 30 executive order providing structure for Michigan schools’ return. The other two options were 100% in-person learning, and a hybrid of in-person and distance learning.

The district is recommending an increase in the amount of “synchronous teaching” at the elementary and secondary levels for the online format, which means teacher-led learning being done in real-time. Further details are being worked out in collaboration with GRPS’ teachers’ union, which will be presented on August 5.

In order to further strengthen and improve our distance learning, we will be launching one-to-one devices for all GRPS students,” said Roby. “We will also be providing resources to ensure all students have reliable internet access.”

Distance learning plans also include support and material packets for students with special needs, when online learning isn’t the best option for them. Other plans are the continuing of athletics in accordance with Whitmer’s executive order and MHSAA guidelines, and the continued providing of nutrition services.

Please stay tuned for additional details that we will be sharing over the next few weeks,” Roby added.

A Monday video of Roby sharing current details on fall school plans is available on GRPS’ YouTube page, in both English and Spanish. GRPS’ weekly updates on the developing plans are available on its website.


Grand Rapids Community College pushes back fall tuition due date, reduces parking fees to help students during pandemic

To help students financially recovering from the pandemic, Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) announced changes on Friday and Monday that include an extension of its fall tuition due date and a reduction in its parking fees.

The first fall tuition payment isn’t due until August 12 – pushed back from August 5. The change allows students more time to sign up for fall classes without a down payment. Students also can take advantage of a plan to spread tuition and fees over multiple payments.

Many students lost jobs or faced significantly fewer hours during the crisis,” said Tina Hoxie, GRCC’s Associate Provost and Dean of Students Affairs. “We don’t want these challenges to force them to postpone their education, especially when they can gain skills or credentials that can help them gain new jobs.”

For GRCC’s parking fee structure, students now only have to pay $3.50 once a day, saving them money and making it easier to get to classes and services at the college’s two downtown campuses. Previously, students were charged $3.50 each time they entered a lot.

This is one more step GRCC is taking to reduce costs for students, making an education more affordable and accessible,” GRCC’s Vice President for Finance and Administration, Lisa Freiburger, said.

Earlier this month, GRCC announced its plans to offer a mix of online and in-person learning options for students returning August 31, with no update yet on an official decision. In June, the college announced its waiving of online class fees during the full 2020-21 school year.

Updates on GRCC’s fall semester plans will be available on its website.


City of Grand Rapids’ oversight and public accountability office seeking feedback on draft plan to improve policing

The City of Grand RapidsOffice of Oversight and Public Accountability (OPA) is ready for more community feedback.

After announcing its draft strategic plan for improved policing in Grand Rapids on July 21, its feedback form is now live, the City of Grand Rapids shared in a Monday Facebook post.

Through virtual strategic engagement, your input will help OPA create a plan that increases accountability and transparency of all of our public safety operations,” the City of Grand Rapids said. “Please help us elevate resident voices by providing your feedback today.”

The OPA was created in August 2019 to serve as the liaison between the city’s public safety, including the Grand Rapids Police Department, and community. Details about the OPA’s police reform efforts and draft strategic plan are available in its July 21 update available on the City of Grand Rapids’ website.


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