Thomas, left, and Joseph Martin, of Grosse Pointe Woods, are ready for virtual learning this semester in the Grosse Pointe Public School System.

Thomas, left, and Joseph Martin, of Grosse Pointe Woods, are ready for virtual learning this semester in the Grosse Pointe Public School System.

Photo provided by Michelle Martin

Preparing for virtual learning for the 2020-21 school year 

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published September 11, 2020

METRO DETROIT — With many local students returning to school in a virtual learning environment because of COVID-19, parents are setting up areas at home specifically for school instruction. 

Michelle and Kevin Martin, of Grosse Pointe Woods, have workspaces for their sons, fifth grader Joseph and second grader Thomas. The Martin boys attend the Grosse Pointe Public School System and are enrolled in the district’s “OneGP Virtual” this semester. School was to begin Sept. 8, after press time.

GPPSS is offering two virtual programs: “OneGP Virtual” and “GPPSS Traditional.” Students in the “GPPSS Traditional” program may return to in-person learning if schools reopen. “OneGP Virtual” students will continue to learn at home throughout the entire semester, even if schools return to in-person learning. 

Michelle Martin purchased book caddies, Chromebooks and whiteboards for Thomas and Joseph. Since both students have desks in their bedrooms, Thomas and Joseph will conduct their online learning from their rooms. This past summer, the brothers attended a virtual summer school program.

“Summer school went pretty well. They did some online learning and had a teacher there, so they are familiar with it,” Michelle Martin said. But not being in school, “I think they’ll miss their friends. I think they’ll miss certain things. I think this will be the experience that defines their generation.”

Center Line Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Lisa Oleski offered several tips for parents.

“When setting up a learning space, you may want to take into consideration several factors — the age of the child, the space available to limit distractions and the amount of support your child needs,” Oleski said. “The kitchen table can work fine for younger students, so that you can keep an eye on them but they have their space. Try to find a place where you are available to them if needed, but you or others are not going to be distracting or in the immediate area. Older students may be OK in their bedroom if you have established routines with them for learning.

“Try to find a space where there will be the least amount of traffic or family members talking nearby. Another idea is to get a display board such as for a science project. They only cost a couple of dollars and can be propped up behind the computer to make a study area and block out some of the distractions,” Oleski said. “Students can even decorate them with their name and schedule, and they fold easily and can be placed under the bed or in a closet when finished for the day. Headphones are another great tool to limit distractions for the student and the rest of the family.”

CLPS staff has prepared a remote learning schedule for students with live, face-to-face online instruction scheduled daily with their teachers. 

“When trying to help your child, you may hear, ‘My teacher doesn't do it that way’ or ‘I don't get it.’ Ask questions instead like, ‘Can you show me how your teacher does it?’ or ‘What exactly don’t you get?’” Oleski said. 

Remember to check the teacher’s website or class platform.  

“There may be videos or directions. Google and YouTube can also be your friend. There are so many videos available to watch, from how to do math problems to grammar review,” Oleski said. “Sometimes, if you search for the exact problem or phrase, you can find steps to help explain it. However, if you have tried and feel frustrated, contact the teacher. They are there to help.”

NexTech Business Interiors, based in Southfield, sells a line of products ranging from conference seating to floor-to-ceiling partitions. Desks are another popular item for the company currently. 

“We have desks that fit into all budgets,” said Howard Rush, interiors specialist at NexTech Business Interiors. “We can do any combination and a variety of configurations.”

Rush said people are looking for furniture with good ergonomic positions so that their children can sit and focus on their studies.

“You want to try to re-create that school environment as close as possible,” Rush said. “They need to remember they’re at school, not at home. If they have their own area, they’ll be able to work.”

Another product parents are looking for is the right furniture to set up small group pods, also known as bubble learning, inside their homes. NexTech Business Interiors has such setups available.

“With pod learning, you get together with neighbors, and parents share the teaching responsibilities with fellow classmates,” Rush said. “They social distance with one another.”

With a pod, the small group of children rotate between other families’ houses for group instruction each day with one parent in charge. That way, the other parents can go to work on their off-pod days. There is also something to remember during video conferencing meetings with teachers and other students. 

“Make sure their background is not anything that is going to cause others to lose their focus,” Rush said. He also suggested parents should not have anything out that could cause their child to be bullied.

Building Youth Careers, located in Warren, has tutoring available for students who could benefit at this time. Building Youth Careers has an entrepreneurial program in which students explore different careers. For a fee, the educational institution also offers tutoring and virtual learning services.

“We know parents work, so we opened this up to working parents,” CEO/owner Danyelle Swift said. Quantina Keller is the director, Elijah Swift is the supervisor/counselor and Jimmie Jones is the education coordinator. 

Building Youth Careers is working with districts in the tri-county area as students conduct their education virtually. Tutoring is available as students do schoolwork from their own districts. The goal is to make sure children continue developing academically and socially while doing online learning. 

“This is going to be challenging for teachers, students and parents,” Keller said. “Outside assistance is going to be needed to get students to stay on task with learning.” 

“The students have already received their instructions for their schooling. They have their own curriculum,” Swift said. “We’ll make sure we’ll meet their standards the school has given them. We’ll assess them at their grade level and try to bring them up to the level they are supposed to be at.”

Once the students log in to their online program, “We will have teachers here for math, science, English language arts. I don’t want children to be lost because of lack of technology.”