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Right time to return to school

Sparta — After a semester of virtual education, offered by the Sparta district in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many district families have moved their children back into the classroom.

While there are still over 300 students enrolled in the virtual-only option, the jump in those returning to in-person learning was substantial. The district gained over 100 face-to-face students, bringing the total breakdown to about 87 percent in classrooms and 13 percent virtual only,  compared to 80 percent and 20 percent during the fall semester, said Superintendent Pete Bush. 

When the school year began, the district required a choice of a full semester of either virtual or face-to-face for the middle and high schools, but allowed elementary students a transition choice at the end of the first nine-week term. Still, Ridgeview Elementary, which is home to kindergarten through second grade, was most affected by the recent enrollment change.

“Despite some transition to remote learning following Thanksgiving break, we increased face-to-face students by an additional 39 students on Jan. 18,” said Principal Heather Guerra.

Challenged to keep class sizes at a level that met with health mitigation strategies, the district transitioned two virtual teachers back into the classroom, resulting in a new second-grade classroom and creating a kindergarten-first grade split classroom. 

Parents as well as school officials are pleased that the new classrooms are all students who were transitioning from the virtual program and with teachers they were already working with, said Guerra.

Some parents have shared that their decision to return students to classrooms came from “watching how successful our mitigation strategies have been and their confidence in how we handled the challenge of face-to-face learning,” said Guerra.

Ridgeview still has three full-time teachers and 81 students involved in the virtual option. “All other students returning to other buildings in the district were easily absorbed in our current staffing structure,” said Bush.

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter 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. Read Janice's full bio

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