School officials plan for possible school closure extension
Dean McGuire: 'We're preparing for the worst but hoping for the best'
OSCEOLA, MECOSTA COUNTIES -- While schools across Michigan are closed until April 13, local school officials are doing their part to plan for a possible extension.
"We're preparing for the worst but hoping for the best," Reed City Area Public Schools interim Superintendent Dean McGuire said.
Schools were originally set to open April 6, but the closure was extended an additional week under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order.
However, in a recent interview with WWJ Newsradio, Whitmer said it was unlikely for school's to reopen this year at the rate the coronavirus is spreading.
While no official plans to extend the closure have been made, schools in the area are working to come up with solutions for all possible outcomes, Morley Stanwood Community Schools Superintendent Roger Cole said.
"We were hoping for May 1 originally," Cole said, noting he is no longer sure how likely this is.
While nothing is certain, Cole said the school district is actively working out a plan to educate students if the closure continues past mid-April.
"We're starting to have conversations about what this would look like," he said, adding administrators have been in contact with health officials as well as attorneys to figure out what they can do to educate students under the circumstances.
However, he said there were various issues that still need to be worked out, including providing internet access to students in rural areas.
According to Cole, about 40% of students in the district do not have access to internet.
Cole also said sending home educational packets would be a potential option for remote learning. However, that would have to be determined later based on sanitary recommendations from health officials.
"In theory, I don't know if it's safe," he said, noting COVID-19 can live on cardboard packages for up to 24 hours.
McGuire also cited internet access as an issue for RCAPS students and noted the difficulty of trying to support students with special needs during this time.
"Some (special need students) need very little support and some need tons of support and everywhere in between," he said.
Big Rapids Public Schools also is preparing for a possible extension.
According to BRPS Superintendent Tim Haist, district administrators are in frequent communication and are trying to work out a plan to educate students remotely if needed.
In the meantime, however, Haist said staff would continue to support students and offer optional learning resources from afar.
"Right now, it is kind of a waiting game, but a lot of our staff is sharing enrichment activities," he said.
Additionally, he said the school district is planning to continue their meal service for as long as possible. In the past two weeks, the district has packaged and distributed more than 52,000 meals.
"It's been a great effort by all our staff," Haist said.