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Changes in US 31 access from Pierce, Warner considered

The Grand Haven Township Board on Monday delayed a decision to close Pierce Street’s access to U.S. 31 in favor of a cul-de-sac, west of the railroad tracks that run along the highway.

The proposal will be looked at again after the township staff amends the resolution to include the capping of Warner Street on the west side of the highway. By doing this, the township opens itself up to the possibility of $125,000 grants for the capping of both Pierce and Warner streets.

The plan originally in place for 2022 construction removes median access for left turns at four points on the highway: at Pierce Street, at Winans Street, in between Pierce and Winans, and at 158th Avenue.

The looming change will make it so the closing of the Pierce Street median will be closely followed by a new indirect for “Michigan” left turns. Another indirect will be placed south of the existing M-45 indirect to accommodate traffic in both directions, according to the township.

One concern with the original Michigan Department of Transportation plan was that indirects on U.S. 31 would be about a mile apart. By closing Pierce, it allows for a closer and more appropriate indirect distance, said Township Community Development Director Stacey Fedewa.

“Typically, we do not get to have a say in the projects that MDOT does,” Fedewa said. “However, in this case, we can provide input because of their proposal to close the railroad crossing and there is an estimated $100,000 available to the township.”

MDOT set goals of more “Michigan” left turns and less railroad crossings for safety reasons, and this resolution helps achieve both goals, according to township officials.

Only $100,000 was available from the state originally, but during conversation, a MDOT representative said the dollar amounts would be increased by 25 percent if both streets were broken from U.S. 31.

The grants would have to be used for transportation-related projects only, Fedewa said. The township could double-seal new roads, assist with their own road projects, acquire property and even improve traffic signals with the funds if the resolution is approved by the Township Board, which could happen as soon as Jan. 25.


Education
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Education
Teens and screens: Limits are even more critical during remote school

The results of studies have been steady when it comes to young minds and screen time, but a recent one perhaps is even more alarming.

A new study shows a direct correlation between screen time and a decline in mental health among teenagers.

Local high school students resumed in-person learning Monday, but virtual class time only added to device usage. Many teens use phones and devices for gaming, streaming and more. Add school to that, and it adds up to many hours of daily screen time.

Dave Crenshaw, author of “The Myth of Multitasking: How ‘Doing It All’ Gets Nothing Done,” says students across the country are struggling with COVID-19 limiting full in-person learning, especially as a third wave of coronavirus cases sweep the nation. Crenshaw contends that multi-tasking hurts focus and productivity.

“Instead, learn how to be more effective by doing one thing at a time,” he said. “A lot of studies have been done about the negative correlation between teens and social media – what I’m seeing even goes a step further. No matter what teens are doing on their phones, it’s the continual switchtasking between their phones and the world around them that is creating a major source of stress.”

Spring Lake High School Principal Mike Gilchrist says some students like virtual learning, while others do not.

“Not being able to get the immediate assistance that students are able to get with in-person learning is certainly a challenge for some,” he said. “Our teachers are pretty good at managing time well.”

During virtual learning, teachers provide direct instruction for 20-30 minutes. Students then exit the online class for 20-30 minutes, and return for a 10-minute wrap-up. Teachers are available the entire hour to assist or answer questions.

Still, it’s a far cry from traditional classroom learning, and Gilchrist, too, is concerned about excessive screen time.

“There is no question that remote learning and being in front of a screen for much of the day is a concern,” he said. “When students are in-person, they probably only have one to one and a half hours of screen time per day. Remote learning is more like two and a half to three hours per day.”

Gilchrist noted that the lack of social interaction can be challenging for some students, but they often turn to devices after school to socialize.

“Once a remote day is over, students trade in their Chromebooks for their social media on their cellphones,” he said. “I would suggest that many students spend many hours on their social media on the weekends, but not with the same rigor as actual learning.”

Gilchrist said he’s happy to resume in-person learning, even though COVID-19 could dictate how long it lasts.

“There is no substitute for in-person learning,” he said. “It’s much easier for teachers to develop relationships with students, provide academic support and refer students to counselors.”

Students benefit from having a routine for seven hours a day, and participating in clubs and athletics.

“When we are in remote learning, our No. 1 concern is social/emotional well-being of students,” Gilchrist said. “Much of our time has been devoted to not just academics, but making sure students are emotionally safe. We have done remote learning pretty well and continue to make adjustments, but continue to hold student and staff safety as the priority as decisions are made.”

Gilchrist said each time the district enters remote school, the staff learns more and makes modifications to improve learning. If students need to go back to virtual learning, they will have a one-hour screen-free break in the middle of the day.

“I would encourage parents to do their best to make sure students are not on their cellphones until all hours of the night,” he said. “Sleep and exercise/movement is critical to learning when the student is remotely learning.”

Gilchrist said he’s impressed with the cooperation from families, students and staff, which has allowed them to remain close to the normal pace of a school year.

Crenshaw agrees with Gilchrist’s recommendation of enough sleep, exercise/movement and limiting screen time when possible.

Crenshaw offers the following advice for parents to work with their teens to establish screen time guidelines to alleviate anxiety and stress:

Reduce “switchtasking”: Explain that multitasking (for example, during their homework) makes everything take longer. If they focus on one thing at a time, they have more free time for friends and hobbies.

Encourage activities: Many sports and in-person activities are being paused in their traditional sense, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives. Work together to find ways to allow them to safely participate or start a new hobby as a family.

Feed the “valuable obsession”: Every kid has something they love doing that will make a difference in the world or make a successful career. Encourage these kinds of pursuits by giving them attention, time and resources.

Set a positive example: We’re all busy, but it’s critical that parents set aside the phone when talking to their children. Setting screen time guidelines for yourself will reinforce your message to your teen.


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Law enforcement
GH psychologist's license suspended
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Kooistra

A Grand Haven psychologist sentenced last May for an improper sexual relationship with a client has now had his psychology license suspended by the state for at least three years.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) made the announcement Monday.

LARA’s Board of Psychology’s Disciplinary Subcommittee approved a consent order and stipulation on Dec. 17, 2020, for William Kooistra, suspending the man’s license to practice psychology in Michigan for a minimum of three years.

The subcommittee’s action also requires Kooistra to pay a $25,000 fine. If Kooistra wants to return to practice, he must petition the Board of Psychology for reinstatement consistent with the requirements of the Public Health Code.

“Mr. Kooistra is a clear example of an authority figure who took advantage of his position by preying on a vulnerable victim, and he must be held accountable for those actions,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “While jail sentences are appropriate for crimes of this nature, licensing sanctions are equally important, and I am grateful for the work of LARA and the attorneys in my office to ensure the regulations governing professional practice are enforced.”

“Licensed practitioners are required to follow the rules and regulations of this state and abide by a professional code of conduct,” said LARA Director Orlene Hawks. “When the professionals in our communities who are expected to care for others violate their duties and obligations, disciplinary action is necessary.”

Kooistra owned and operated his own practice in Grand Haven. In 2014, he began treating a patient and – under the guise of “body work therapy” – initiated a sexual relationship with the patient, who terminated the therapy in 2018 and subsequently filed a police report.

In March 2020, LARA summarily suspended Kooistra’s license and he was charged by the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. In May, Kooistra pleaded guilty to attempted fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to 45 days in jail by the 58th District Court. He was also ordered to pay $9,000 in fines, costs and restitution.

Kooistra’s website at the time said that he practiced from an office in Harbourfront Place, 41 Washington Ave. in downtown Grand Haven. His information stated that he was a fully licensed psychologist who has been in practice for more than 20 years. He provided treatment for depression, anxiety, panic disorders, trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. Among the items listed on his website was treatment for sexual abuse-related issues.

Kooistra had no prior criminal record in Ottawa County.


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