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Local schools say ‘no’ to Whitmer’s plea

ESCANABA — Following a recommendation from Governor Gretchen Whitmer to pause in-person learning for high school students and youth sports for two weeks (see related story), a number of local school districts reacted on social media. As of 4 p.m. Friday, none of the local districts had indicated on social media they would follow the governor’s recommendations.

“This morning at 10:00 a.m. the Governor recommended a 2 week pause for in person learning and spring athletics,” wrote Mid Peninsula School District Superintendent Eric VanDamme on the district’s Facebook page Friday afternoon. “This was only a recommendation. After consultation with our local health department, board of education, and other local districts we have decided to remain open to in person instruction and ­continue with spring sports. As always we will continue to keep the best interest of our students and community in mind and will monitor the situation closely.”

Gladstone Area Schools posted a similar statement as part of a longer post that thanked the community for being supportive and understanding of the hard work teachers and staff have put towards in-person learning.

“The Governor made an announcement this morning requesting that all high schools return to virtual-only instruction and that all youth sports be paused. We want to assure you that we have carefully considered this request and that our local circumstances do not yet meet this level of reaction. We will continue to communicate with our local Health Department, monitor ongoing case numbers and positivity within our district, and make the decisions that best support our students. With that in mind, we feel it is important to let everyone know that in-person instruction will continue and our athletic teams will keep working and competing,” said the posting by Gladstone Area Schools Superintendent Jay Kulbertis.

A nearly identical posting was published on the Rapid River Public Schools Facebook page. Kulbertis also serves as the superintendent of that district.

Big Bay de Noc School posted its own message, which included information about how to sign up students for rapid antigen testing.

“At this time, we are opting to STAY OPEN and NOT voluntarily close for in-person instruction and athletics. We will remain OPEN and continue to offer opportunities to our students as long as local data support remaining in session,” read the post. “We were able to administer rapid antigen tests to over a third of our students this week and will continue to test all students with signed orange COVID-19 Consent Forms on a weekly basis for the remainder of the school year. We currently have zero known cases among our student and staff population.”

North Central Area Schools also posted it intended to remain open, but would continue to monitor the situation and communicate with the local health department.

“After reviewing the local COVID-19 data and consulting with the local health department, we have decided to remain in-person with all grade levels and activities, while continuing with all our existing COVID-19 Policies and Procedures,” read a portion of the posting.

In neighboring Schoolcraft County, which is part of the Delta Schoolcraft ISD, Manistique Area schools posted a short message on the issue.

“Governor Whitmer today recommended that schools go virtual and sports take a pause for two weeks. Manistique Area Schools has made the decision that we will “NOT” be going virtual nor taking a pause in sports. Have a great weekend!” the post read in full.

Other locals schools within the DSISD, which includes Escanaba Area Schools, Bark River-Harris, and Nah Tah Wahsh PSA, did not immediately turn to social media to alert students and families Friday. Holy Name Catholic School, which is independent of the DSISD, also had not posted an notices related to the governor’s request.

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