Greater Lansing, building a smarter system for tomorrow’s workforce

Despite the tumultuous times we’ve been through for almost a year, there have been some positive developments that we believe will provide our region with a way forward as we plan our next steps, especially in our education system. Most notably, the establishment of RELAUNCH Greater Lansing, a task force of business, government, education, and healthcare executives aiming to develop a blueprint that will help organizations successfully manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELAUNCH Greater Lansing has provided a model that should be used to incorporate the lessons learned over the past few months into a sensible, coordinated community strategy for the future. We believe there are three overarching principles that should guide this effort.

Decisions have to be data driven. It is widely accepted that we need to get our students back into class with personal tuition. We need to do this so that students, parents, teachers, and staff feel safe. Numerous scientific studies show that there is no confirmed evidence of significant spread within schools or classrooms when the correct protocols are followed. A December 2020 study by researchers at Michigan State University has been completed. “The decision of school districts to offer hybrid or fully face-to-face tuition does not contribute significantly to the spread of COVID-19 in communities when there are low or modest case rates in the population …” Our community has broadly welcomed the critical security measures that are required to successfully support a safe return to class.

Tim Daman

We need more community participation in schools. RELAUNCH Greater Lansing’s efforts have shown how effective partnerships can help develop sensible strategies for dealing with complex challenges. Educators alone cannot guarantee that children will succeed in the classroom. This is about our community embracing our future leaders and the education they deserve. We need to involve all of our stakeholders because we are all involved in the results. Parents and companies have stepped up to support remote learning when it was needed. We know it takes a concerted effort to help our students get back on track academically.

More from LSJ’s opinion

It’s time to rethink how we do education. One of the greatest lessons of the past year is that it is time to question some long-held assumptions about how we deal with our children’s education. For example, the state of Michigan requires 180 face-to-face teaching days and 1,098 hours per year for each student in traditional schools. The school calendar is an example of a long educational tradition that should be reviewed. Technology and access to the Internet are different. We are in a new era that requires a fresh look at which approaches will produce the best results for 21st century students.

Great leaders recognize that a crisis creates an opportunity. Our region has always been fortunate to have great leaders ready to face the challenges that lie ahead. Let’s bring our education and business leaders together to identify the best approaches for today’s students and tomorrow’s workforce.

Jason Mellema is the Superintendent of the Ingham Intermediate School District. Tim Daman is President and CEO of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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