School officials prepare for new school year

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 25, 2020

Editor’s note: This article includes the latest information as of press time. Because the COVID-19 situation is constantly changing, please note the school plans could be modified at any time.

GROSSE POINTES — Grosse Pointe Public School System students will return to school next month in one of two ways.

Because of COVID-19, two options for students will be offered this fall: “OneGP Virtual” and “GPPSS Traditional.” Both programs will be taught by GPPSS teachers, and the students will not return to school but will learn virtually from home. However, students in the “GPPSS Traditional” program may return to in-person learning depending on the safety circumstances of COVID-19. Student attendance will be required and tracked in both formats.

“At this time, we believe it is better, safer and in everyone’s best interest to start Tuesday, September 8, 2020, in full remote learning with a gradual plan to bring everyone back,” district Superintendent Gary Niehaus stated in a letter posted on the district’s website at School officials have laid out the differences between the two programs.

“OneGP Virtual” is optional. Online registration for “OneGP Virtual” was held Aug. 3-7. Even if in-person instruction resumes, students must stay in the “OneGP Virtual” for the entire duration of the semester, which ends in January.

OneGP Virtual will combine students from grade levels or courses districtwide. For instance, a Brownell Middle School student and a Parcells Middle School student could be in the same sixth grade language arts class.

The OneGP Virtual curriculum is strictly online. According to school officials, the students will remain with their OneGP Virtual schoolteachers and won’t have any changes in their schedules. Students learn at their pace in OneGP Virtual.

GPPSS Traditional will begin the year in a 100% remote environment. According to Niehaus’ letter, it is the district’s intent to transition GPPSS Traditional to a hybrid or face-to-face instruction as soon as it is safe. However, OneGP Virtual will still proceed for the first semester with students learning virtually from home.

GPPSS Traditional is not optional. The remote learning model was established on public health factors: in this case, because of COVID-19. In the GPPSS Traditional setting, the students will remain with their assigned teachers and shift from an in-person schedule to a remote school learning environment from home.

According to Jon Dean, district deputy superintendent for human resources and educational services, about 6,300 students will be in the GPPSS Traditional program while 1,100 students enrolled in OneGP Virtual.

The district will use Schoology for the online courses, as it will be a point of contact for teachers and students. The Schoology app is accessible from any technological device. More information on Schoology is available at

Students will follow an arranged daily schedule of classes and lessons. The classes will have multiple, weekly live interaction sessions between students and teachers. There will be synchronous interactions, also known as real-time learning with the teacher, for the students. Also planned are asynchronous interactions — learning experiences created by the teacher — which are accessible at any time. Students and parents also can expect whole class, small group and individualized instruction.

GPPSS staff members are planning to offer small, in-person group instruction for at-risk students, including those in categorical special education programs and the district’s youngest students. As for grading, at the elementary school for example, students will receive feedback from teachers.

“We are developing a plan for conferences and reporting grades/progress to families,” Keith Howell, district director of preK-elementary instruction, said in an email.

Howell also has tips for parents who might need some advice about having their children learn remotely.

“I would recommend that parents contact their classroom teachers and/or building principal to develop a plan to support a family’s unique needs,” he said.

Developing normal routines — waking up, lunch, breaks, end of school day, following teacher schedules — will help. It’s also recommended that parents create a designated work space, create a visual calendar, be flexible and connect with the classroom teacher for support.

During the spring, staff did not have access to the buildings and learning materials. However, when school returns this fall, they will have access to both. Child care will be available in the district for GPPSS staff and essential workers. If a family is in need of a technological device, email parentcon or call (313) 432-3131.

Howell, Director of Secondary Instruction Maureen Bur and Director of Student Services Stefanie Hayes put together a video package about the virtual format that can be viewed at The video includes information about special education.

University Liggett School staff, in Grosse Pointe Woods, also is preparing for the new school year. School officials are offering both an in-person option and a remote learning option. School will begin Sept. 8.

All students and staff who come to school for in-person instruction will be required to wear masks while in the school building.

Students on the remote program will be able to access live instruction through videoconferencing technology. Faculty will use asynchronous tools and individual check-ins to monitor and support the students’ progress.

ULS staff members have composed the “University Liggett School Return to School Plan, 2020-2021” that details actions for the new school year, including wellness protocols, social distancing practices, cleaning and sanitizing rules, and more.