Best of Bridge Michigan: The top education stories of 2020

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.

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

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

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

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

 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

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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