Grand Haven and Spring Lake schools are closing Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 22-23, due to “COVID-related factors.”
The districts were already scheduled to be off Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Spring Lake Superintendent Dennis Furton sent an email Thursday morning alerting the district’s families of the closures.
“All student activities scheduled to take place during the nine days beginning Saturday, Nov. 20, and extending through Sunday, Nov. 28, are canceled,” Furton wrote. “This is a decision I do not take lightly as I know that unplanned school cancellations disrupt parent work schedules. That being said, we are limping along under the current circumstances and lengthening Thanksgiving break may allow students and staff to return, on the whole, in better health.”
All activities includes extracurriculars such as sports and other after-school events. The exception is Spring Lake’s girls swimming and diving team, which will compete at Saturday’s Division 3 state finals as planned.
Grand Haven Superintendent Andy Ingall said his district’s closure affects K-12 student buildings, preschool and Open Door, but did not specify after-school activities.
“As you know, we are doing everything we can to maintain the health and safety of our students and staff,” he said. “Considering the number of COVID-19 cases in the district, the daily staffing challenges and the impact of increased cases in our county, we have decided on a temporary districtwide closure.
“We have not broadly suspended extracurriculars,” Ingall added. “Those will be addressed case by case. Students and families should look for more information directly from coaches and advisors.”
Furton said COVID-19 cases within the Spring Lake district are at an all-time high, with cold and flu season adding to the absences.
Furton attributed the closure to several factors. He noted that COVID-19 cases within Ottawa County are increasing “on a nearly vertical trajectory” and that hospital systems are “reporting strain unlike anything they’ve experienced throughout the pandemic, including a significant increase in pediatric cases.”
Monday and Tuesday will be treated like snow days in both districts and would only need to be made up if the districts exceed their six allowable snow days for the 2021-22 school year.
“Note that our district provides many more hours of instruction than is required and that our staff will adjust plans accordingly,” Furton said. “This cancellation will not negatively impact student learning.”
According to Spring Lake Public Schools’ COVID-19 dashboard from Nov. 17, there are seven new positive cases in the high school, five each at Holmes and Jeffers elementary schools, three at the intermediate school, and two at the middle school.
Grand Haven Area Public Schools’ COVID-19 dashboard from Nov. 18 shows new cases at seven district buildings over the past 24 hours. White Pines Intermediate School has 22 students currently in isolation. Griffin Elementary School has 14; with 12 each at the high school, Lakeshore Middle School and Mary A. White Elementary. In total, 113 GHAPS students are in isolation for COVID-19.
Fruitport Community Schools’ dashboard was last updated for the week of Nov. 14 and shows six new student cases at the high school, five at Shettler Elementary School and two at Edgewood Elementary School. There are also six new staff cases at Edgewood and one at Shettler.
Elsewhere in Michigan
There are other school districts in Michigan schools taking next week off for the Thanksgiving holiday instead of just three days.
“While this couple of days off is not a solution, it is a step in the right direction toward encouraging relief and self-care that we all need to practice,” Muskegon Superintendent Matthew Cortez said.
Schools will also be closed in the Galesburg-Augusta, Ravenna and Wyoming districts.
Michigan’s largest school district says it will switch to online learning on Fridays in December in response to rising COVID-19 cases and the need for mental health relief. Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told families that it’s critical that 75 percent of students log in, the minimum attendance for an official school day under state financial rules.
Michigan and Minnesota have been leading the country this week in the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vitti said vaccinating students is the best way to ensure safety and stick to consistent learning schedules in Detroit. Children ages 5-11 now are eligible for shots.