Editor's Note: This piece first appeared on January 27, 2022, in the Oakland Press.
My high school-aged boys were on a non- stop merry-go-round: Hybrid. Virtual. In-person. Quarantine.
As our sons headed into the 2020-2021 school year, these were just a few of Michigan’s new public school policies. We were hopeful, because the Michigan Department of Education and our school districts had had five months to figure out a plan for education during a pandemic. Unfortunately, as the school year went on, our hopes began to diminish.
We wanted our boys to be physically in school. They learn better in the classroom, with the teacher present, surrounded by their peers. Between the hybrid model (only in the classroom twice a week) and Gov. Whitmer’s order completely closing high schools from November through mid-January, our pub-lic school students in Michigan were woefully behind in the year’s curriculum.
We were concerned when our school district decided not to count midterm exam grades, and relieved when it was announced that our boys would be returning to the class- room five days a week. But the explosion of COVID-19 protocols quickly wiped out the advantages of in-person instruction: masks, sanitizer, portable desk dividers, social distancing measures, and most disruptive of all, the close-contact quarantine. One positive case would take 30 kids out of school. What’s worse, our district did not offer a virtual option for the quarantined kids sitting at home. The 10-day quarantine often resulted in students being out of the classroom for up to two weeks. Once again, the school announced that final exams weren’t going to count toward their grades. This was the last straw.
My husband and I agreed that we couldn’t do this for three more years, so we talked with both boys about making a change. Our older son, who graduates this year, wanted to stay and graduate with his friends. His grades were fine and we were comfortable with that decision. Our younger son decided to accept an offer to attend Detroit Catholic Central. We were not surprised to hear that after just two days off in March 2020, the parochial school had gotten back up and running with virtual classes through the remainder of that school year. When they returned full-time to the classroom in the fall of 2020, students who were sick or quarantined were given the option of virtually attending class — and they were expected to be paying attention, camera on, dressed in their daily school uniform. No learning was lost.
Our son is thriving in his second year at DCC. The quality of education is outstanding. While we have the added burden of a yearly tuition bill, we are convinced that we have made the right decision for him and his education.
My family’s story is one of many that demonstrates the need for school choice in our state. Unfortunately, there are many barriers that block families from making these choices for their kids. I’m fighting alongside four other families in a lawsuit to strike down a constitutional amendment that prohibits par- ents from getting any kind of assistance from the state to help offset the additional costs for private school.
Each child learns and excels in different ways. Families should be encouraged and equipped with the right resources to choose the best fit for their child’s circumstances. We want our children to excel in the environment that is best for them individually. If we want our students to succeed, we must be innovative and creative. One size does not fit all.
It is time we stop trying to fit all kids into the same cookie-cutter mold, and instead let the money follow the kids. Whether our tax dollars go to the neighboring public school district, a private school 20 miles away, or even a homeschool co-op, funding should follow our children to the place that is most beneficial for them. This is how we can get our children off of this never-ending merry-go- round and get them on the path to success.
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