Holland Middle School principal Nick Cassidy checks with a parent on the number of Chromebooks she needs for her children. Photo: Brian Vernellis/Sentinel staff
Holland Public Schools took an additional step in regards to distance learning on Monday in the midst of the shutdown brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak. The district invited families to come to their respective buildings to pick up an iPad or Chromebook for their K-8 students.
Pickups were held at each elementary school and the middle school from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the exception of Holland Language Academy, which had a pick up day on Friday, March 20.
Superintendent Brian Davis said district employees did a great job rallying to provide distribution.
“It just speaks volumes to the staff in Holland Public Schools,” Davis said. “For them to come together in unprecedented times to see how we can care for kids and continue learning. ... It’s amazing to see the number of staff and support staff there going out to cars, gathering information and getting devices to students.”
The devices will allow easier access to distance learning materials provided by the district. No classwork is being required or graded by the district at this point, but HPS is encouraging students and parents to remain engaged in learning.
“Our focus is remaining committed to continuing as many learning opportunities as we can and providing as much guidance to parents as possible,” Davis said. “We’re not in a position right now where we’re requiring anything. They’re not being graded, students won’t be penalized in any way, shape or form, but we’re encouraging students and parents to continue learning when possible.”
Davis said the district is also helping connect families with internet resources, with many companies offering cost free access to those that have been previously unable to access the internet services.
“We are working to assess internet connectivity,” Davis said. “We’re finding out who does not have access and trying to connect them with the many entities who have stepped up (to provide internet access).
“It’s one way to close digital divide and address inequities in our community.”
District devices will still be subject to the same content filtering as they would be in school buildings, Davis said.
Having the devices will allow students to not only continue learning, but remain connected socially to their classmates.
“It’s a way to keep individuals connected not just in learning, but also socially,” he said. “During this shutdown we shouldn’t be having play dates, but cabin fever can set it. We’re encouraging social distancing, but we can use technology to have students stay connected.”
Teams of teachers at each grade level in elementary and in each subject in the middle school are coming up with resources to share. Students will be able to access the content through things like Google Classroom or Classroom Dojo.
For more information, visit the HPS website at hollandpublicschools.org.