There was a surprise visitor at Cherry Creek Elementary School on Monday morning. Governor Gretchen Whitmer stopped by at 10:35am and stayed for approximately an hour. During that time, she talked to students in three classrooms before heading to the school library where several area superintendents had been invited to come and share their concerns, feedback and thoughts about the current school year.
“I found out it was a possibility last week Thursday,” says Cherry Creek Principal Craig Veldman. However, it wasn’t until the governor’s security detail showed up on Monday morning that he knew for sure that the visit was a go.
Cherry Creek Elementary School may have been chosen for the visit since students have been learning in-person almost all year. Veldman says it was his understanding that Whitmer was interested in seeing the school’s COVID-19 protocols in action and hearing from local school leaders about their experiences.
“It’s not often that you have the governor coming to your school to hear what your needs are,” Veldman notes. “I really appreciate that it was about our kids. It wasn’t about politics.”
Opportunity to Advocate for Students
Originally, Veldman had hoped to take Whitmer on a short tour of the entire building. However, after seeing how engaged students were in speaking with the governor, there was a change of plans. As a result, Whitmer spent about 20 minutes in three classrooms instead of walking around the whole school.
After those visits, Whitmer headed to the library to hear from area superintendents. Topics included the funding and set-up of summer school programs, meeting the emotional and social needs of students and educational testing, Veldman says. He notes many in attendance also shared their appreciation for the MI Safe Schools Roadmap, which districts used when planning for the 2020-2021 school year.
“She was here more to listen than to speak,” Veldman says, adding that he felt it was a valuable opportunity to provide direct feedback on state policies. “Obviously, if the governor wants to come to your school, you’re not going to say no.”
For parents and community members, Veldman wants to be clear that the visit wasn’t about staging a photo op or making a political statement. “The purpose was for us to be an advocate for our students.”
All photos courtesy of Lowell Area Schools.