KALAMAZOO, MI — Kalamazoo Public Schools is launching learning hubs to help students learning virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The district partnered with Kalamazoo Youth Development Network to provide students in-person support for distance learning, Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri said.
She said the learning hubs will give students access to WiFi, healthy snacks and meals, enrichment activities and mental health and wellness resources.
Students will also be able to have in-person, socially distanced support and outdoor recreation and physical activity, Raichoudhuri said during the Tuesday, Sept. 22 Board of Education meeting.
She said the district hopes to launch the program by the second week of October.
The Kalamazoo Youth Development Network is a nonprofit in Kalamazoo County that helps support students while out of school.
The learning hubs will be open first to students identified with the highest need.
Raichoudhuri said the district identified students in need of extra support during virtual learning including students with disabilities, English language learners, students without reliable internet, those missing from virtual learning in the spring and those experiencing housing or food insecurity.
She said there are 842 students who meet all five equity cohort categories.
Board member Jason Morris applauded the district’s new program to help students.
“We are paying attention to our most vulnerable constituents,” Morris said.
The learning hubs were made possible by a $125,000 grant approved by the Kalamazoo City Commission, Raichoudhuri said. She said the program will also be supported by a $200,000 grant from “a local foundation.”
Additional information regarding the foundation was not provided prior to publication.
Related: Kalamazoo Schools graduation number climbs to new high in age of ‘Kalamazoo Promise’
The district began the school year online-only on Aug. 31.
According to enrollment data updated Sept. 21, nearly 10,500 students, or 79% of the student population, chose a tiered plan that starts with remote-only learning and eventually switches to in-person classes, Raichoudhuri said.
Another 2,640 students, or 20%, chose to attend school virtually for the entire school year, she said. About 1% of students are attending virtual courses provided by the Kalamazoo Region Educational Service Agency.
After Thanksgiving, students in the first option would switch to a hybrid learning model with two days of in-person learning with social distancing and three days of virtual learning from home from Nov. 30 until March 12.
Raichourdhuri is surveying teachers and other staff ahead of her decision whether to transition to hybrid learning. She will also be holding 10 listening sessions over the week of Oct. 12 and will survey parents during the week of Oct. 19.
A decision is expected to be made on trimester two on Oct. 22.
Raichourdhuri said previously that the district will only move to in-person learning in November if it is safe to do so. She outlined safety protocols for in-person school including mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, enhanced cleaning and handwashing.
Ann Arbor Public Schools created a similar program called Connections+, which plans to allow students to meet in-person at neighborhood partners, such as community centers and apartment complex clubhouses, when in-person school is allowed, while also meeting virtually.
This will allow all families to get the enrichment of a learning pod without needing to hire private tutors or childcare.
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