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New School Year Brings Cool Stuff

Students Love Personal Laptops, ‘Giant Fidget Spinners’

Trying out the new “giant fidget spinner” and logging on to a personal computer were just two of the exciting changes Appleview Elementary students found when they returned to school the day after Labor Day.

Facility renovations, like those that Appleview, can be found throughout the district as a result of the $58.6 million bond that passed in the spring of 2016.

While some Appleview students flocked to the new playground equipment, others waited not so patiently for their own personal computer. Some were unsure of the new lunch line procedure, while others volunteered their time to help shelve books in the updated media center.

Most barely noticed the improvement touted most by district officials — secure building entrances.

Kensley Homrich, left, gets her turn at selecting a Chromebook

Securing the Buildings

A top priority for the district was securing the buildings, said Superintendent Gordie Nickels. “This was one of the reasons we did what we did — to provide a much safer back-to-school for all of our students,” he said.

The Appleview and Ridgeview facilities were each renovated to include secure entrances, which now require all who enter the building to pass through the central office before gaining access.

“There are two sets of doors that lock, and a third set which locks down each wing,” said Appleview Principal Mike Birely. “We have three layers of security before anyone can gain access to the classrooms.”

“I love it. Nobody gets by us,” said Brenda Kline, Appleview secretary, whose desk faces the window between the first two sets of locked doors.

Bond money was also used to upgrade security at both the middle and high schools, according to Nickels; however, there were different approaches at each building. The high school, which is the most recently constructed facility, already had a second set of security doors, but until this year, they remained unlocked during the day.

The second set of doors will be locked during the school day, said Nickels. That change will force anyone accessing the building to funnel through the main office.

The middle school, which is slated for new construction next year, did not benefit from reconstruction now. Rather, it was equipped with video surveillance equipment and a buzzer system, which will be repurposed for other uses when the new facility with its secure entrance is built.

Laptops Need Rest, Too

The bond also moved the district closer to its goal of having a computer in the hands of every student. The one-to-one initiative was piloted two years ago in the fifth grade at Appleview and at the high school.

New Chromebooks and utility carts are now in all fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms, as well as in the middle and high schools, with plans to expand the program to all students in the future, said Birely.

Introducing the new classroom procedure, which will start each day with students updating their planners on their personal Chromebooks, fourth-grade teacher Doug Davis spent the afternoon on day one telling his class what to expect.

“This is where they will sleep at night,” Davis told them. “Just like you, they need to recharge before the next day.” The students eagerly listened to login procedure and were anxious to explore the options available on the computers.

A highlight of the new playground equipment was what the students dubbed the “giant fidget spinner”

Balance of Work and Play

The playground at Ridgeview Elementary was extensively improved and mostly replaced since last school year, but the new equipment added at Appleview did not go unnoticed by students.

“I like it; there is lots of stuff and more space on it so everybody can be on it at the same time,” said third-grader Eli Larson. Classmate Kandin Ortiz agreed. “I like that it is so big and lots of area to play on,” he said.

With a climbing wall, hanging bars and several slides, the colorful play structure did hold a great number of students at one time, but many were drawn to one special spot on the structure. Located at one end was a circular disc that students soon found they could spin at a very fast pace.

While there may not always be a line for the disc that could hold three to four children comfortably, it has received a rather trendy name that will likely stick around for awhile..

“To the giant fidget spinner … to the giant fidget spinner!” fourth-grader Gunner Rottman proclaimed as he led a group of friends across the playground.

Fifth-grader Oliviah Reister helps stock the shelves in the new Appleview media center

New and Improved Spaces

Appleview’s grades 3-5 students had little trouble traversing their way through the improved lunch area, but newbies, just arriving from pre-K-2 Ridgeview, needed some help remembering how much they had grown since last year. Lunch helpers reminded the youngest students that they “are grown up enough now to help themselves” to condiments. “If you want ketchup, you just get it for yourself here,” said a lunch aide. “You are with the big kids now.”

The refreshed lunch area was bright and welcoming and adjacent to the new colorful media center, which was not quite readyfor the start of school. Fifth-grade volunteers were helping fill the shelves and trying out the new comfy furniture while they were there..

Other improvements in the district included upgrades to parking lots and driveways and a new athletic stadium, as well as varsity athletic fields.


District Makeover, Spartan Style

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst
Janice Holst was a reporter for SNN covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts.


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