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Best of Bridge Michigan: The top education stories of 2020

This week, Bridge Michigan is revisiting some of its most impactful stories from 2020, a year like few others. Today, we examine our top articles about education.

In a year defined by the coronavirus pandemic, schools statewide have struggled to adjust as well, switching to online or hybrid learning to minimize the spread of the virus.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all schools closed in the spring and high schools in late fall during another wave of the virus, while districts statewide are using a variety of approaches for lower grades.


But even before the pandemic, debates about education were brewing, from a controversial third-grade reading law to payments to charter school content providers. This week, Bridge has been looking back at some of its top stories.

Thousands fled Michigan schools in fall. Will COVID home-schoolers come back?

Tens of thousands of students who normally would have attended Michigan public schools didn’t enroll for the 2020-21 school year. The big question facing schools: will they come back after the pandemic, or will they continue to be home-schooled? — Ron French

‘It’s been hell.’ 1 house, 5 kids, and a pandemic struggle to learn at home

Few stories encapsulate the chaos of remote learning during a pandemic like this yarn from reporter Ron French and photographer Daytona Niles, illustrating how one family with wonky internet is trying to hold it together. Among other lessons from 2020, the pandemic underscored that the digital divide in Michigan, as one-third of residents in the northern Lower Peninsula lack high-speed internet necessary to learn during the coronavirus. — Joel Kurth

Michigan districts make millions teaching home-schoolers karate and crafts

Squeezed by state funding, a handful of Michigan school districts thought they found a solution: Offering online classes in karate, horseback riding, ice-skating and other non-essential courses to homeschool students. The trend generated tens of millions in new state funding — until auditors realized the programs didn't meet state standards and demanded repayment. — Mike Wilkinson

Michigan schools revolt: We won’t flunk struggling third-grade readers

Whether to flunk third-graders who are behind in reading skills has been debated in Lansing for years. But in the first year the law was supposed to be implemented, school leaders in essence settled the debate by saying they would refuse to hold kids back because of a poor score on a reading test. — Ron French

The sobering reason why Michigan day care centers are not yet shut down

 In the first, confusing days of the pandemic, Michigan officials closed down schools, gyms, restaurants and movie theaters, but kept open child care centers. The reason told a lot about the frightening days ahead:  Child care centers had to stay open so doctors and nurses could make it to hospitals to care for the sick, even if it meant potentially exposing their children to the virus in group child care settings. — Ron French

Quesadillas, Netflix and silence in Central Michigan’s COVID dorm 

Soon after Michigan college campuses reopened for the fall, coronavirus cases among students and the residents of college towns skyrocketed. Colleges set up “quarantine dorms” for students who had tested positive or had been in close contact with someone who was infected. It didn’t go well. — Ron French

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