Bobcat parents march to support return to face-to-face learning



GRAND BLANC — Jeana Nolan is concerned that the lack of face-to-face learning will damage her children’s chances for a bright and successful future.

She’s not alone.

More than 50 Grand Blanc Community Schools parents who want their children back in the classroom gathered for a peaceful demonstration outside the high school Saturday, Feb. 13.

The crowd held signs urging the board of education to open the schools full-time, to give families the choice to have in-person learning.

“My freshman has always been an A student,” said Nolan. “Now, he’s just about failing. He was the one I thought would get an academic scholarship. Now, he’s afraid he won’t get into college.”

The COVID-19 pandemic derailed in-person learning for all students in March. Students statewide finished the 2019-20 school year online.

At that time, parents, administrators and elected officials had high hopes for a return to normalcy in the fall. But that didn’t happen.

Over the summer, the Grand Blanc Board of Education made the difficult decision to allow kindergarten through 5th grade pupils back in the classroom. Families also had the option to continue their education online.

For those who returned, half go to school two days a week, the other half go two different days, which allows teachers to manage the safety protocols for social distancing, and custodians to deep clean the buildings weekly.

As for students in the middle and high schools, they had to continue their education in a virtual format through the first semester. At the start of the second semester, the board of education initiated a plan to slowly bring those students back to face-to-face learning.

So far this school year, they have been in the classroom two half days.

Rachelle Huff, who organized the demonstration, said that’s not enough.

“We want a choice,” said Huff, who has six children in school. “Every kid is different, and we need the option to choose what’s best for their style of learning and their personality.”

School officials have said they’re trying to work out the logistical details, such as transportation and food service. State-mandated safety guidelines and staff shortages have presented additional challenges, they’ve said.

There is also some concern that a full return to school could spark an outbreak, which would mean another shut down, such as the statewide pause ordered in November.

Many parents, however, are looking beyond the current academic year, and worrying about the long-term impact of online learning.

“Our kids won’t be able to compete for college or jobs,” said Lynn Tremblay, a Flushing parent who attended Saturday’s march in Grand Blanc. She said Flushing students are in the same situation, and many are falling behind.

“They need someone to help them,” Tremblay said.

Several of the parents agreed, saying their children are struggling, having a difficult time adjusting to the virtual format, and losing ground that they might not be able to regain.

Grand Blanc parent Angela Sorgenfrei summed up the crowd’s sentiment when she remarked, “We don’t want them to get half an education, anymore.”