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It’s back to school Monday for Wayland and Hopkins

Wayland and Hopkins High School students will be back in the classrooms Monday after spring break, despite a request from state officials to go to remote learning because of a surge of Coronavirus cases.

That also means spring sports are on as scheduled.

Hopkins announced Friday it intends to continue in-person learning and the Wayland Board of Education followed suit after a special virtual meeting Saturday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services officials Friday morning noted explosive number of Covid-19 cases, particularly for teen-agers, and decided to ask, but not order, high schools to switch to on-line classes and pause sports activities for two weeks.

But Hopkins and Wayland declined. No word yet has been received about what Martin will do.

Wayland school board members considered three options in response to the governor’s request, stay the in-person course, switch to the hybrid approach for two weeks, or agree to the request. The third approach was rejected by a 6-0 vote.

The hybrid option, which was used extensively last fall and into early winter, was discussed, but not even offered up for a vote.

Board member Toni Ordway perhaps summed up the board’s position when she opined, “I would like to see us react to a problem rather than a what if.”

Becky Hohnke agreed, saying, “I I feel like we should follow the Allegan County Health Department recommendations, but I want to see our kids in school.”

Janel Hott said, “We were closed for 17 days (earlier in the academic year to mitigate Covid), and it really didn’t change anything.”

The County Health Department recommended local schools to switch to hybrid for two weeks, which Jason Shane agreed with, but he didn’t make a motion to that effect because he said it would fail.

Shane also said his research from the American Journal of Pediatrics and American Medical Association has shown the notions that suicides have increased because of Covid is not true. Ordway said statistics provided by Spectrum Health have indicated otherwise.

Moves by other West Michigan school districts have demonstrated that most also are declining to shut down high schools or pause sports.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association has recommended continuing sports because virtually all of the competitions are held outside and aren’t as risky as indoor sports such as volleyball, wrestling and basketball.

Shane, however, said he has seen a disturbing number of photos of athletes, coaches and parents not observing Covid mitigation protocols such as masking and distancing.

Two citizens spoke during the Zoom meeting.

Brett Butler of Dorr pleaded the board to show courage in letting the students attend classes in person.

“Cast your vote for the children,” he said, “and show you won’t sacrifice them to a social experiment.”

But Erin Stepek said, “The best thing to do right now is not to have them together in the classroom” and she favored going back to the hybrid system for two weeks.

Superintendent Dr. Christina Hinds gave the board statistics that showed Allegan County indeed is seeing a tremendous increase in Covid cases and noted more than 45 percent are from students in grades 9 through 12, the highest reported since the pandemic began a little more than a year ago.

She stressed in a letter to parents Saturday afternoon that every effort will be made to follow health department guidelines on masks and social distancing.

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