Back to School Already? Get Ready!

Among the thousands of parents and students who descended on John Ball Park recently were Alicia Allen and her daughter, Laticia. They came to the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Back to School Celebration to get information about Southwest Community Campus, where Laticia will be a first-grader this fall in the English/Spanish dual immersion program.

Allen said her goal for this year is that Laticia learns to read in both languages.

♥“We’ve been practicing throughout the summer,” Allen said. “She’s been doing good, but that Spanish is not quite there yet. I’m definitely depending on the school to help me out,” she added with a laugh.

Laticia seemed to take that as a challenge. First, she said “hola” (hello) and “como estas?” (how are you?) to a visitor, using what she learned last year in kindergarten. Then she started counting in Spanish, “uno, dos, tres …” and kept on going.

“You see why I’m smiling?” her mom said proudly.

Staff from Southwest Community passed out information from a tent, as did many other GRPS schools. There were booths for athletics, safety and health. School uniforms were on sale. Students played bean-bag toss and other games as they waited in line. Twisty balloon hats were popular items. Families dined while students played instruments and answered brain teasers from a nearby stage.

With school opening Sept. 8, and summer swimming and camp just about over, the park was abuzz with activity and anticipation.

Alicia Allen hopes daughter Laticia improves her English and Spanish reading skills this year Nature or Nurture? Both, at These Schools  

Laura Grahs and her daughter Aliyah were excited about her going into first grade at C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy, where students study rocks and go camping while learning academics. Blandford Nature Center and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council are community partners.

Grahs said that in Aliyah’s kindergarten year, she liked all the environmental activities as well as the school’s heavy parent involvement and strong academics. Her hopes for Aliyah this year are to work on reading, be in a safe environment and get involved with all the school has to offer.

“This is our first experience with the public schools,” Grahs added. “I was hesitant at first, because I went to all private schools. But once I walked in the school, I knew it was a good fit.”

Over by the stage, David Dorr listened to a student strings group with his son Oscar Peck-Dorr, a C.A. Frost grad who’s entering sixth grade at Blandford School.  The frog ponds and woodlands of Blandford Nature Center will be his outdoor classroom, where he will raise chickens and tap maple syrup.

The family considered Zoo School, the Center for Economicology and the new Museum School before settling on Blandford.

“I call it a bounty of riches, which I think other districts should be envious of,” Dorr said.

“We made a choice to buy in the city, and have lived in the city and gone to schools in the city,” he added. “It’s not going to work if you’re not committed to the city.”

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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