Schools respond to Gov. Whitmer’s request to pause face-to-face instruction

While most U.P. schools have continued in-person classes, some have transitioned to remote learning.
Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 4:11 PM EDT
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UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WLUC) - Last week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked Michigan schools to voluntarily switch to virtual learning for two weeks amid rising COVID-19 cases. However, most schools in the Upper Peninsula did not make the switch.

Superintendents from Marquette and Alger County schools met after the governor’s press conference to make their decision.

“When the announcement was made last Friday, we didn’t have any active cases in the district,” said Dan Skewis, superintendent at Negaunee Public Schools. “We decided to stay open and just analyze our data at the local level.”

Munising Public Schools superintendent Pete Kelto says administration talked with local health officials before coming to the same decision.

“Based on our cases at the time, all the mitigation strategies we’re using with masking and distancing, we felt it was really in everyone’s best interest to stay in session,” said Kelto.

Both Kelto and Skewis say one way they’re keeping track of the virus in their schools is through weekly testing of student athletes.

“I would say close to half of our high school participate in a spring sport, so to be able to test them once a week is kind of nice so that our student population is being tested,” Skewis said.

In Dickinson County, Norway-Vulcan Area Schools did choose to go remote. Superintendent Lou Steigerwald says the decision was mainly due to rising case numbers in the high school.

“We were reaching a point where over a third of the students were going to be quarantined, and we did not want to be a source for infections,” said Steigerwald. “To our knowledge at this point, we haven’t been.”

Steigerwald says while there are concerns that come with virtual learning, Norway-Vulcan schools staff are working to take care of each student.

“We’re worried about some of those social and emotional issues,” Steigerwald said. “Most of the students are hanging tough in there, and we have our school counselor and our school social worker here for families to reach out to.”

Negaunee and Munising Public Schools will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases and make adjustments as needed.

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