Rural Michigan Schools Challenged By The Pandemic

Mar 23, 2020

Credit Andy Robins / WMUK

Schools around Michigan are closed because of the corona virus outbreak. They've shifted to online instruction. But that's putting a special strain on smaller, rural districts.

Deb Paquette is the superintendent of the Bloomingdale Public Schools in Van Buren County. She says some of her students don't have computers or easy access to the Web.

"We are prohibited during the closure from requiring online activities. So, the online activities or the workbags that are going home, those are all enrichment or optional activities."

Paquette says her teachers and other staff are having to get creative during the pandemic.

"It's more difficult if you don't have a laptop, a desktop, a Chromebook, something like that. But most kids can access their email and do some Google Classroom stuff through their phones, if they have phones. So, as long as they're able to get on their phone or get on Facebook, they’re doing some of their lessons through Facebook Live."

And Paquette says the Bloomingdale schools are turning to Facebook for other ways to keep students engaged.

"Teachers are reading books aloud on our Facebook pages, and several of my classroom teachers have their own classroom accounts. We also, in our elementary buildings, use Class Dojo, so that's how our teachers are communicating with parents directly."

The state says online instruction will not count toward required hours of classroom teaching. And Paquette says there's also the issue of student achievement tests this spring.

"I would hope that our governor would work with (U.S. Education Secretary) Betsy DeVos and her staff in making sure that our students aren't required to take state assessments in the spring over material we have not had time to cover."

Paquette also says there's concern about a possible "pandemic slide" in student skills if schools stay closed for a long time.