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Mt. Morris Twp., Mich. — Westwood Heights School District, which has offered virtual learning for high school students since 2013, is now making that electronic option available to students from kindergarten through twelfth grade in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are anticipating that in the fall we may have parents who want to keep their children at home, but we also want to provide more traditional classrooms since a lot of our families have both parents working or are single parent homes, so we’re going to provide multiple options,” says Peter Toal, superintendent of Westwood Heights Schools.
More than 50 percent of the district’s students are from Flint.
Westwood Heights first decided to implement online learning as an option to people who needed a way to continue their high school education without having to come in every day. The school has seen participation in online learning grow over the last several years, as more students find it more convenient, Toal said.
“Parents may be afraid of their student becoming ill or a family member that maybe has a complicating health issue so there will be a certain percentage of our students that want to work at home,” Toal said.
In the fall, families have the option to keep their students in traditional classrooms where they’ll be at school all day, or they can choose online learning where their student will be given a Chromebook and possibly a WIFI hot-spot if needed. Another option for students is to go to school some days and work from home others. This way students will be enrolled in online classes but still come to school to meet with the tutors provided on certain days.
However, the school system is not without its own coronavirus induced hurdles. The superintendent said that some additional costs have been caused by the pandemic. Transportation costs, for example, will rise because due to social distancing not as many kids—20 as opposed to sixty—can fit on a single bus, creating a need for more bus runs. Furthermore, there is talk of Westwood Height’s funding being reduced on a per person basis in Lansing, so the school also has to adjust its cost structure to match that.
Even with shared concerns for student safety and additional costs, Toal’s excitement for the upcoming school year hasn’t been dampened. “We’re really looking forward to seeing our students again. We really miss them and feeding off their energy, so we’re really hoping for a resolution to this problem.”