Category Archives: Schoolcraft

Nurses Combine to Help Each Other with Mask Making

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Carol Berger holds a box of masks that she has made before she sent them to the Hospice center.

By Deb Christiansen

During this time, what do you do when your healthcare company, Elara Caring Hospice, is last in line to receive PPE – personal protective equipment?

Find a friend who can sew, figured Deb Bender, RN.

This is the call that came into Carol Berger, a retired RN, in Schoolcraft. “When my friend asked me,” Berger said, “I couldn’t turn her down. Nursing is in my DNA. I couldn’t turn down a call for help.” So Carol, along with husband, Doug, and many donations of materials from neighbors and friends, began crafting masks. Lots of them, 650 in all, went to her friend’s company. “The effort gained momentum and I felt as though I couldn’t stop,” Berger said.

“Bender would come pick the masks up. None of this would have happened had she not been the impetus in this dilemma. She is a clinical manager there. We have been friends since freshman year at Nazareth College. She brought the masks to her office, then management would distribute. Nurses and aides, office staff, clergy and social workers are all wearing them. She is the one that brought me needed supplies in the beginning and taught me how to use the mask pattern. I feel she deserves a lot of the credit,” Berger said.

To date, over 900 masks have been made. The endeavor has also resulted in paid work. “My neighbor got me a paid gig,” Berger said. “I wasn’t looking for it, but now the demand is high and the materials are scarce, especially elastic.”

Berger was asked what it’s like staying at home and working with her husband. “Doug is a freelance graphic designer who was already working from home. He has been incredibly generous with his time by showing up at the sewing room once his projects are done.

“There have been some ‘workplace disputes’ in the sewing room, mostly about which music to listen to next. It has playfully tested our listening skills and patience, but all and all it’s been a very positive experience.”

The mask making has kept Berger from some of the household projects that others of us now have the time for, such as spring cleaning. “There are so many other household things I could be doing, but this mission takes precedence,” Berger said. “Besides, it keeps me from worrying about my fellow healthcare professionals and all the other worries about this time.”

It remains to be seen whether the Bergers will continue their mask project once the state opens back up, but there is no doubt it is one of the bright spots of the lock down. “I’ve seen an outpouring of generosity from neighbors,” Berger said. “I live in an awesome place.”

Local Events Get Cancelled or Postponed

old car fest
Visitors inspect these early car models at the 2019 Old Car Festival. The 2020 version has been postponed to August 21 and 22.

By Sue Moore

Big and little events around the area have either been cancelled or postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The Vicksburg Village Trash drop-off scheduled for Saturday, May 9 has been postponed to July 18. It will be located on Wellhouse Drive near the Vicksburg Little League fields.

The longest-running observance cancelled for this year is the 4th of July parade and festivities in Schoolcraft. This would have been the 95th celebration in this small town of about 1,000 residents. It usually swells to 8,000-10,000 for the parade and all the other activities throughout the village.

The postponement of the 40th Annual Vicksburg Old Car Festival until Friday and Saturday, August 20-21, was announced by founder and organizer Skip Knowles. “We have been fortunate that the show has gone on this long without interruption, except for the day of a rain deluge that shortened the event to Friday and about an hour on Saturday.”

The running of the 33rd annual Hearty Hustle 5k has been cancelled but will still go on as a virtual race May 9 to May 16 via the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation web site.

The 11th opening of the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market is still unknown as the state of Michigan loosens the restrictions on how people gather. It has usually opened the third Saturday in May and is hoping it can get started in early June.

Vicksburg and Schoolcraft Little Leagues are both on hold for their season openers.

The Vicksburg Historical Society opening of its buildings and grounds has usually occurred in the middle of May. This year, its managers are waiting to hear the recommendations of the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on how many people are allowed to gather in one place.

Memorial Day observances in Vicksburg and Fulton have been cancelled as well as the parades that were led by Vicksburg High School’s Big Red Machine marching band and lots of area fire trucks.

Schoolcraft’s Memorial Day parade is cancelled as well as the speeches and flag observance in the cemetery.

The village-wide garage sales in Schoolcraft scheduled on May 29 and 30 have been cancelled.

The Schoolcraft Spring Clean-up has been cancelled from its June 6 date.

Spring sports for high schools have all been cancelled.

Then there are high school graduation plans in Schoolcraft and Vicksburg. They are still in the planning stage with each school hoping to give their seniors a proper send off. Vicksburg is planning a streaming video event but hoping for a more traditional in-person event later in the summer.

Still Studying While in Quarantine

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Savannah McDonald, Schoolcraft senior, plans to attend Albion College in the fall.

By Rob Peterson

Not everyone got out of their homework when the COVID-19 quarantine closed schools this year.

Savannah McDonald, a student who is dual-enrolled at Schoolcraft High School and KVCC, must continue her schoolwork if she is to earn credit for her college-level courses. “I am taking two classes at KVCC,” she said. “I just turned in my final for one of the classes, but the other still has a project due.”

Savannah participates in Schoolcraft’s program which is unique in that it allows students to attend college-level classes on site, a feature that increases their participation rate. “Almost 40 percent of our students are dual enrolling, which may be the highest in the county,” said Schoolcraft counselor Larry Ledlow.

Due to COVID-19, Schoolcraft has extended its offer to pay for classes at KVCC for the summer semester, which Savannah is strongly considering. The savings of having these college credits could be significant; she is headed to Albion College in the fall. “We are working with the counselors at Albion to make sure her credits will transfer,” said her mother, Shannon McDonald. “We don’t get the additional financial aid that Albion just announced because she has already been admitted.”

Studying is not the only productive activity keeping Savannah busy during quarantine. She made the Albion tennis team, so exercising is a priority. “I’m missing the tennis season right now, so I run with my dog every day to stay in shape,” she said.

This time has been bittersweet for Savannah and her mother; quarantine has given them a shared experience, but they are missing the senior year milestones of prom, graduation, and her final high school tennis season. “It’s hard watching Savannah’s sadness over missing her friends,” says Shannon. “The silver lining is the extra time we have together before she goes off to college.”

Newfound Appreciation for Teachers

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William Delaney, Schoolcraft first grader, plays outside at his home.

By Rob Peterson

Schoolcraft parent Myra Delaney wants teachers and support staff to know how much they are appreciated. “They are the foundation of our community,” she said.

Delaney, a stay-at-home parent who formerly worked in the criminal justice system, admits that she may not have been cut out to be a teacher. “My first-grader is testing boundaries, and a teacher knows how to find that break-through moment” when you can turn a challenging interaction into a teaching opportunity. “You don’t always know if a kid this age is acting out because he’s confused or because you’re his parent.”

“My son is a very active and social kid, and he really misses his teacher,” she said. Fortunately, they live on a hobby farm just outside of town, so they can keep busy with their horses, goats, and riding a four-wheeler on their property.

While virtual learning is a “huge adjustment,” she is developing a good routine as teachers begin posting more rigorous activities on See Saw, the online learning app that Schoolcraft is using. “My son needs constant encouragement,” she said. Despite the steep learning curve, she wants to help her son keep up with his work.

“I just hope the teachers don’t have to undo all the homeschooling that I’m doing,” joked Delaney.

Schoolcraft Schools Working to Adopt Distance Learning

jennie stull
Jennifer Stull, Schoolcraft kindergarten teacher, prepares for distance teaching.

By Travis Smola

After the coronavirus pandemic caused an early end to the school year, many districts are now looking for solutions to make sure children don’t fall behind. In Schoolcraft, that includes turning bus drivers and other non-teaching staff into mentors.

Schoolcraft Superintendent Rusty Stitt ran through a draft of an instructional plan with the Board of Education during its April meeting. That meeting was held online via Zoom due to the Governor’s stay-at-home orders. The plan covers how the district will continue instruction at a time when students and teachers cannot interact face-to-face.

“We have in a short amount of time, done some amazing things and we have put some good programming in place for our kiddos,” Stitt said. “Our staff have been nothing but supportive throughout this process. This is a plan that is certainly collaborative.”

Stitt said under the Governor’s executive order, they are now required to do some distance learning with their students. That leads to the challenge of how exactly to go about it. Stitt said there has already been a distribution of printed materials for students to work on, but e-learning is still going to play a huge role.

There are many web programs in place to help; students are already familiar with some. Elementary students will be using a remote learning program called Seesaw to interact with teachers and complete assignments.

Older students will be using Google Classroom in a greater capacity. The district will also look to start putting teachers in direct contact with students via phone, email or Zoom. In some cases, they may be doing group learning sessions completely online.

Student services are also being maintained in this time. Stitt said staff members have been working hard to provide social and emotional support to the students who need it at every grade level.

“We also have a full-time social worker that’s just doing a phenomenal job,” Stitt said.

They are taking a unique approach by involving the drivers and other non-teaching staff. Many have now received additional training to serve as coaches and mentors to students. Each will be assigned up to four students to help in online school lessons. Stitt says these are students who need extra encouragement or coaching. The benefit is twofold: The district can keep paying employees who can’t do their usual tasks when the school is closed, and the teachers get a little extra help making sure students are keeping up with their lessons.

“We have over 50 coaches that will be working with our kiddos,” Stitt said.

Stitt said they’ve also had over 20 volunteers helping serve breakfast and lunch to over 160 children every day for seven days a week. Board Treasurer Kathy Mastenbrook brought up concerns about reaching all students and making sure none get left behind. Stitt said they are doing weekly checks to gauge where each student is at in the process.

If a student is falling behind or isn’t completing assignments, teachers and staff will try to adapt a different approach to reach and help those students. Stitt said they also may offer summer learning programs to help students catch up.

“We will follow Governor Whitmer’s executive order and again, do our best in teaching through technology and other means,” Stitt said. “Our teachers are still a lead role with communicating with the parents and the students alike.”

The board unanimously voted a show of support of the plans. After that, high school principal Matthew Dailey and elementary school principal Matt Webster both spoke up with praise for the teachers and their handling of the COVID-19 situation.

“Credit to our teachers because from the moment that this hit back in March, they’ve done nothing but ask how we can put together a good plan to make sure kids and families are supported,” Webster said. “If you see a teacher or get an email from one, shoot them one back and say ‘thanks for what you’re doing’ because they’ve done nothing but work hard the whole time. They’ve been fantastic.”

Kindergarten Success in Quarantine

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These Schoolcraft kindergarten students are pictured on the Zoom screen, ready for their morning lessons from their teacher, Jennifer Stull.

By Rob Peterson

Jennifer Stull, who teaches kindergarten in Schoolcraft, was surprised to learn how much her students can accomplish virtually.

“The kids all have iPads they took home and we use tech in the classroom, so they are already familiar with using the technology,” she said. “We are using the SeeSaw remote learning app, which is fabulous.”

The trouble is that teaching is about the whole child, she said, not just working on projects via an iPad. That is where a creative teacher comes in. “We need to be sure that we’re incorporating art, movement, and virtual social activities wherever possible” at this age.

As an example, her last assignment was based on a book she read via video to her students, called Carla Sandwich. “The book is about a girl who makes sandwiches out of creative combinations. They wrote to me what their silly sandwich would be and drew a picture of it. Then they could record themselves reading a sentence about their sandwich.”

Engaging the parents is essential as well, which is why she posts an overview the night before so they can help their kids schedule their learning time.

How will next year be different? “I’ll appreciate the kids even more,” she said, sharing that she misses them every day, so much that it hurts. “I hope to have a picnic with this year’s kids before next year begins.”

Educator Promotes Family and Routine in Time of Crisis

Darcy's Family
Darcy Bolles’ son, Carter, holds the caterpillars in the cups that came from the Schoolcraft co-op nursery school in this picture.

By Betsy Connelly

One Schoolcraft preschool director has made it her goal to maintain an interactive and hands-on learning environment for her students from her home during the statewide shelter-in-place order. Darcy Bolles’ key to successfully achieving this goal while taking care of her own sheltered-in-place family can be summed up in one word: routine.

Bolles, preschool teacher and director of Schoolcraft Community Co-Op Preschool, has organized daily Zoom video chat sessions with her preschool students. “The kids love it. They miss being at school but they love sharing their houses with their friends, showing everyone their rooms and their toys. It makes me smile seeing their little faces smiling every day.”

Her purpose is having fun and maintaining normalcy with the preschoolers. “They don’t understand what’s going on, they don’t bring it up, so we don’t talk about it. I want to keep things as normal as possible in a time that is very difficult for a lot of
people.”

The biggest challenge involved with adjusting from in-school classes to online classes has been the loss of touch. Bolles has countered this loss by assigning the students hands-on activities they can do with items already in their homes such as riding bikes, reading to stuffed animals and drawing with sidewalk chalk. The classroom caterpillars have come home with her so she can teach the children via Zoom about caterpillars’ metamorphoses into butterflies.

Bolles is making efforts to help the parents of her preschoolers as well. She and the preschool board have decided not to charge parents for tuition for the month of April since classes only meet online for half an hour each day. Still, she finds that these 30-minute Zoom sessions provide parents with a much-needed break each day.

The Zoom sessions are only part of her daily routine. Each morning she helps her older son, Carter, age nine, with his school work. Then at 11 a.m., she video chats with her preschoolers, followed by lunch. After lunch, she works with her younger son Owen, a special-needs six year old, with his physical and occupational therapy.

Bolles hopes we, as a society, can emerge at the end of this pandemic with a new understanding of the importance of family. Owen, who has a low immune system due to his special needs, was hospitalized last year and Darcy spent many nights staying there with him while Carter and her husband were home. This year, the whole family is home together, enjoying each other’s company.

Her greatest discovery has been how resilient people are. She hopes people will continue to be as patient and understanding as they have been. “The going has gotten tough and we’ve worked together. We check on each other and we appreciate what we have a little more. We need to realize that life is special and fragile. We need to take advantage of and enjoy what we’ve been given, and that’s family.”