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Whitmer closes schools statewide, local colleges also shut down

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 17, 2020

 Chartwells food handler Tauren Culver gets ready to pass out lunch to students at Defer Elementary School in Grosse Pointe Park March 16. Chartwells is providing food to students in need during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s mandated school shutdown. Poupard Elementary School in Harper Woods also is a drop-off site.

Chartwells food handler Tauren Culver gets ready to pass out lunch to students at Defer Elementary School in Grosse Pointe Park March 16. Chartwells is providing food to students in need during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s mandated school shutdown. Poupard Elementary School in Harper Woods also is a drop-off site.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

GROSSE POINTES — With state and local officials on high alert during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced March 12 that all K-12 school buildings — including those in the Grosse Pointe Public School System — would be closed in the state from March 16 through April 5.

The plan is to reopen schools April 6. The shutdown includes public, private and boarding schools. The shutdown is expected to slow the spread of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus.

“This is a necessary step to protect our kids, our families and our overall public health,” Whitmer said in a prepared statement. “I am working with partners across state governments to ensure educators, parents and students have the support they need during this time, and to ensure our children who rely on school for meals have access to food. I know this will be a tough time, but we’re doing this to keep the most people we can safe. I urge everyone to make smart choices during this time and to do everything they can to protect themselves and their families.”

Since the mandatory closing happened so rapidly, GPPSS educators asked for patience as they developed and shared different opportunities for students to continue learning over the three-week shutdown. These included researching downloadable learning packets, online resources and more.

The district’s SAT and ACT tests were canceled in light of the shutdown. GPPSS officials said they will wait for direction from the state regarding testing dates after students and staff return to school. Elementary report cards were to be mailed the week of March 16. As for third-quarter grades for middle and high school students, officials are still looking at the logistics.

It’s too early to determine how the mandated closure could impact school districts that have spring break following the mass shutdown. According to information posted on the GPPSS website, www.gpschools.org, the district follows the same spring break schedule as Wayne County Educational Service Agency districts. The GPPSS spring break is set for April 6-13, and school officials will let families know if there are any changes to spring break.

During this time, school officials are conducting a deep cleaning similar to the steps they take during summer vacation. Every surface is being disinfected, and Clorox machines are being used to clean each room and building.

With the mandated shutdown, there were concerns for students who receive free breakfast and lunch at school. The district’s food service provider, Chartwells, made arrangements with the state to provide free meals to anyone younger than 18 or younger than 26 if they receive special education services.

During the shutdown, the meals will be served as “grab and goes,” meaning the meals will be consumed at home. Families can grab and go with up to a week’s worth of meals at breakfast pickup time from 8 to 10 a.m., and lunch pickup time from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Poupard Elementary School, 20655 Lennon St. in Harper Woods; and at Defer Elementary School, 15425 Kercheval Ave. in Grosse Pointe Park. People can go to whatever time is convenient for them. There is a chance that could change depending on if spring break is moved up a week, but it’s too soon to determine at this point.

Local colleges also are taking severe precautions. On March 12, Wayne County Community College District officials suspended all face-to-face classes until March 22. The suspension period was designed to give school officials time to work with faculty and staff to transition learning models from face-to-face instruction to alternative methods of learning. District and campus administrative services were to continue as normal. Online classes and off-site clinicals would continue as usual.

In light of COVID-19, Macomb Community College officials decided to take what they called “precautionary measures” and suspended on-campus, in-person classes March 12-22.

“The pause is to allow the college to work through the process of moving on-ground classes to online,” an MCC press release states. “Current online classes and off-site clinical rotations will continue as scheduled and will not be affected by the suspension.”

During the suspension, the college will remain open. Students and community members are encouraged to call first if they need resources and support. MCC also canceled all performances and presentations at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts and Lorenzo Cultural Center.

For more information on the coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov.