On Thursday, April 2, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an Executive Order suspending in-person instruction in Michigan schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, thus mandating that school buildings and facilities remain closed and K-12 sports activities and other in-person extracurricular activities be likewise suspended. This is the Executive Order that we all anticipated and feared would come, but one that we also felt was necessary to protect the health, safety and well-being of our students and citizens in light of the public health crisis brought about by the coronavirus.
Because Holland Christian has essentially been in a remote learning delivery system since March 16, there will be only minor modifications of our current mode of teaching and learning. This means that we will continue to address the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs of our students as foundational to their learning experience. We will also be focused on retaining the learning that has taken place earlier this year along with introducing new material during these final weeks of the 2019-20 school year. As we learn more about this delivery system, there will be continuous improvement designed to enhance learning for every student. To this our instructional team and teachers are fully committed.
For those of us who especially value face-to-face in-person teaching/learning, this is not the way we desired to complete this academic year. But, we have received nearly universal affirmation for the way that our community has embraced the challenges of the situation in which we now find ourselves. What I’ve expressed before bears repeating and that is my personal thanks, commendation, even admiration for all that students, teachers and parents are doing to continue a credible learning cycle for these unusual weeks of this school year.
I won’t attempt to share all of the Governor’s 17-page Executive Order, but these are the key points for most of our constituency:
- Face-to face, in-person instruction is suspended for the remainder of the school year. Remote learning will be the new normal.
- All schools will be developing learning plans for the balance of the year. (Holland Christian has been doing this already and will continue to adapt, refine and improve based on constructive feedback. Periodic communications from our instructional teams will continue.)
- M-STEP and SAT standardized tests will be cancelled for the year.
- School employees will be paid for the balance of the school year.
Although Holland Christian is not obligated to follow all of the regulations for public schools, we strive to essentially align with them because of our many shared collaborations. For Holland Christian our previously published school calendar for both the current and 2020-21 school years will remain intact.
Our current intention is to pay all of our employees through the end of the school year. To the extent possible this only seems fair and right because of our mutual commitments. Our teachers and those involved with instruction have likely never worked harder or spent more time in preparing and delivering instruction than they are doing now. Indeed, every paid employee will be expected to add value to our organization during this time, though their exact assignments may change according to our needs and their skill sets.
In accord with the above commitments, the regular tuition payments for this year will also need to be honored. Those experiencing unusual hardships in this regard may communicate directly with Mrs. Terry VanDerKolk (firstname.lastname@example.org), who administers our Tuition Grant Program. Because most of these funds are committed to those with demonstrated financial need at the beginning of the school year, there are limited funds yet available in this resource. Should there be those among us who are able and willing to ease the burden of our sisters and brothers experiencing loss due to the coronavirus pandemic, I’m certain your generosity to this fund would be greatly appreciated.
In a closely related matter, we are exploring a largely forgivable loan from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of the recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) administered through the Small Business Administration (SBA). There is a funding provision in this Act for non-profits including Christian schools. The PPP is essentially a federal financial stimulus program designed to ensure stability in employment during these challenging times. David Zimmer, our Director of Finance, is leading our effort on this initiative.
We received word earlier today from the Michigan High School Athletic Association that all winter sports championships and all spring sports have been officially cancelled. Still to be decided are end- of –the- year activities for seniors, especially, commencement on the scheduled date of May 19. We will keep you informed about these and other pertinent matters, as the last part of the school year unfolds.
For students, parents and teachers who have been on the front lines of this remote teaching/learning delivery mode, we wish for each of you a relaxing and well- deserved teaching/learning Spring Break during the next 10 days. And, on April 13th, when school resumes, we trust you will be eager and ready to finish strong the 2019-20 school year. Most importantly, we wish for all of you God’s presence in your lives as we experience Holy Week and all that it means to us as Christians.
Thank you for your patience, your understanding, your affirmation, and especially your prayers, as together we navigate this unexpected journey. With God’s grace and favor, the diligent efforts of all of us, and the courage to persevere, we will endure to the end of this severe health crisis. May GOD keep all of us nestled securely in the palm of HIS hand, now and always.
Dr. James E. Bultman
It’s very quiet around here – – not nearly as much fun without faculty, staff, and especially our students. One of my great joys in being at HC has been the opportunity to see students and faculty perform at the highest levels in classrooms, on stage, in concert halls, or in a variety of sports venues. All of that is now gone for the present. I feel so badly for students and faculty who have put in so much time and effort into practice for upcoming performances only to see them cancelled so quickly. But, we recognize the seriousness of the coronavirus and will willingly do our part to curtail its spread even when it is accompanied by real disappointment
I have been so impressed with our faculty and staff on how wholeheartedly they have embraced this new reality. They have accepted this challenge and are delivering a meaningful education for your children even though it will be quite different from the usual face-to-face instruction. I know that every teacher is working hard to make this a special time for teaching/learning.
I trust, too, that you as parents are doing your part to ensure that your children are engaged in this new teaching/learning routine. That would include setting aside places and times for intentional study. Thank you for your commitment to keeping the learning cycle intact!!
To those of you who may be concerned about receiving free lunches please know that HC is coordinating food distribution with area public schools at this time. Should there be questions about distribution sites, please contact Nancy Michaels, HC’s Director of Food Service, at email@example.com
Among the many cancellations and postponements of events with potentially larger groups are the following:
- The Annual Budget Forum is now scheduled for April 16 at 7:00PM in the Lecture Hall at the High School.
- The Annual School Society Meeting will be held on April 23 also at 7:00PM in the Lecture Hall in the High School.
I realize full well that the current mandates and regulations are inconvenient, even disruptive for everyone. In many cases they impose very real hardships and unrelenting concerns. My fervent prayer for all of us is that our God who is sovereign over everything will keep all of us nestled securely in the palm of His hand, now and always.
Dr. James E. Bultman
To: Parents and Trustees
From: Jim Bultman
RE: School Closing
Governor Whitmer’s directives last evening changed most everything. Area superintendents had an online meeting this morning with Dr. Pete Haines, Superintendent of the OAISD, and Dr. Paul Heidel, Chief Medical Director from the OCDPH. Some, perhaps not all, questions have been answered. Above all we are trying our very best to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect our students as well as all of you. As of 7:30 this morning there were no confirmed cases in Ottawa County. For this we are grateful.
This is what we know:
- All school buildings, including ours, are to be closed starting Monday, March 16, through Sunday, April 5. This closure is for all personnel except for a few essential staff. We’ve instructed students to bring home all belongings due to the length of the closure.
- We will put forth every effort to continue the teaching and learning of our students during this time. Obviously, the format will be different due to the circumstances. You can expect regular contact between our teachers and your children although this, too, will be different than the typical face to face contact in classrooms. As much as possible, and especially at the middle and high school levels, these contacts will be done electronically. At the elementary levels these contacts and instructional assignments will vary with student and teacher circumstances.
- Teachers are meeting today and throughout the weekend to plan for continued learning. Information will be sent to students in 7th-12th grades by 10 am Monday and posted each day. We are working on the details for prek-6th grades and will share plans with you for these grade levels by Monday afternoon.
- All school activities, including spring sports practices and competitions are postponed (could be rescheduled at a later date) or cancelled (will not be rescheduled) through April 5. Unfortunately, this includes the band and orchestra trip to Disney and the spring break baseball trip.
- At this time we are planning to continue our regularly scheduled spring break from Friday, April 3 – Sunday, April 12 unless mandated otherwise by state education officials.
Thank you for your patience, understanding, and prayers as we embark on this unprecedented journey. We will provide you with regular updates via email, social media, and our website. You can be assured of our very best efforts to be accomodating and focused on continuing excellent Christian educational experiences during this time.
As most of you already know, last night Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered all K-12 schools to close Monday, March 16 – Sunday, April 5.
We know you have many questions and we are meeting throughout the day today to plan for the closure. We will keep you informed as soon as we have additional information.
Thank you for your patience and understanding,
Dr. James E. Bultman