- Sponsorship -

Students return to classrooms for first time since March

An atypical first day

Students hopped off buses and headed through the West Middle School doors for the first time since March 12. They were greeted by staff members, who glided thermometers across their heads, checking temperatures. They wore new back-to-school outfits and backpacks, but donned masks as well. 

Eighth-grader Elaina Perez grips her new lanyard, which will hold her mask

Thus kicked off a school year like no other, but one many students and teachers were eager to begin.

“It’s a little different, and a little strange. I don’t know really where things are, but it seems like it’s going to be fine,” said seventh-grader Karly Sanderson, referencing that she was new to the building and that she will spend half of her week at home, learning remotely. 

The district is using a hybrid model, in which half of students attend school Monday and Wednesday, half on Tuesday and Thursday, with each group attending alternate Fridays. That way, about 300 students are in the building at a time compared to the typical 750 students. About 10 percent opted for 100 percent virtual school.

“I feel like it’s going to be good. You get to relax some days,” Karly said. “You get to stay at home. It’s not going to be too bad.”

Still, she prefers seeing friends and teachers in person, not just through a screen. “I really like to see people in general — friends. Even if I don’t get to talk to them as much …. I’m very social. It’s been a little hard.”

First-day Focus

Students walked into their first-hour classes, where desks and tables were spaced apart to seat 10 and 18 students. Awaiting them were new Chromebooks, still in boxes and complete with carrying cases– equipping students with what they need for the blended learning format. They also received lanyards to affix masks and hang around their necks when they aren’t wearing them. 

Eighth-grader Ian McLellan has his temperature taken by Tammy Kruse, office paraprofessional

Along with firing up the Chromebooks and getting to know teachers, the first day focused on orientation activities usually done at August events, but that were canceled this year. Students toured the building, practiced locker combinations and learned safety protocols. Arrows line the hallway floor to direct the lighter-than-usual traffic. Outside, a group of six students sat on yoga mats while teacher Bethany Singer gave them a mask break in the crisp morning air.

Seventh-grade science teacher Justin VandePol welcomed his students, showing an unmasked photo of himself on the screen and sharing a recording he made through Screencastify, a tool he plans to use a lot this year as he leads remote and in-person learning. His words complemented a sign on his wall that reads, “Think like a proton. Always positive.” 

“We are going to work hard this year, no matter what it looks like,” VandePol told the class. “We are going to encourage each other and we are going to have fun.”

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

LATEST ARTICLES

Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Class of 2021 has ‘test-optional’ choice when applying for college

Most schools in the state of Michigan have become SAT/ACT-optional for the Class of 2021 for admission purposes. There are, however, pros and cons for students...

Schools in nine districts announce closures as COVID cases spike

New temporary school building closures were announced by nine school districts in Kent ISD this week, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...

Musical prodigy, international performer, fourth-grader

When Cameron Renshaw was in kindergarten he kept asking his mom, Tina Renshaw, about the cello in her closet...

Fourth-grader’s pickle stand inspired by school marketplace

‘With my tiny fingers, I am good at stuffing them,’ said the young pickle peddler. ‘You can see how they are packed in, so you get more for the money’...

Spreading out in the great outdoors

Outdoor education mid-pandemic is proving to be a welcome and successful alternative to indoor, masked learning in Byron Center this fall...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS