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School starts with high hopes, imaginative art and a new building

Kent County students return to classes this week

Multiple districtsIt was back to school for most Kent County students Monday and Tuesday, and they were ready for a fresh start and new year of learning. Here’s a first-day peek at Wyoming, Godfrey-Lee and Comstock Park Public Schools. 

Students arrive for the 2022-2023 school year at Wyoming High School (photo by Erin Albanese)

Freshmen Return to Wyoming High School 

By Erin Albanese

At Wyoming High School, ninth-graders joined their 10th- through 12th-grade peers Tuesday for the first time since the district consolidated its two high schools into one in 2012.

‘It’s really amazing. I’m excited to see new staff and learn new subjects.’

– Ken Rosas, Wyoming High School freshman

Due to capacity issues, freshmen attended Wyoming Junior High with seventh- and eighth-graders for the past decade. Now, thanks to a gleaming new high school building that has capacity for the district’s 1,250 high schoolers, and a new junior high building scheduled for construction, the district has shifted back to a 9-12 high school and 7-8 junior high model. 

“It’s a new experience, definitely,” said freshman D’leeth Gayot, as she stood outside the high school band room. “The school is bigger and it feels very weird to be with the upperclassmen.”

“I feel normal because all of the other schools I’ve heard of have their freshman year at the high school,” added freshman Ava DeGennaro. “I’m excited to be with the entire marching band.”

Wyoming High School students walk to their first class on their first day of school (photo by Erin Albanese)

Freshman Ken Rosas was happy to start high school in a new section of the school dedicated to freshman classes. “It’s really amazing,” he said. “I’m excited to see new staff and learn new subjects.”

Principal Josh Baumbach said bringing freshmen back to the campus was eagerly anticipated and makes it easier to include them in all high school activities. 

 “We’re excited. It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “For so many years, we’ve wanted to have the traditional high school.”

Vickey Hopkins’ third-grade class at Godfrey Elementary School works on their first assignment of the year: to draw a banana that bites back (photo by Alexis Stark)

Biting Bananas?

By Alexis Stark

On their first day of school Monday at Godfrey Elementary, teacher Vickey Hopkins’ third-grade class arrived in teacher Rosanne Steffens’ art room.

Some students were shy, others were sleepy but all were intrigued by the many decorations and supplies scattered around the art room. 

“Welcome my friends,” Steffens greeted her class. “We’re going to go for the gold in art today.”

Students found their seats, made their name tags and then Steffens asked them to draw a “banana that bites back.”  

Met with some faces and one student’s feedback – “That’s a nightmare!” – she assured the budding artists that she wanted to get them using their imaginations. 

“You can’t make a mistake,” Steffens said. “Art does not need to be perfect to be good.”

Third-grader Avery Adrianse gathers with peers in the lunchroom at Pine Island Elementary (photo by Karen Gentry)

The ‘Ins and Outs’ of School

By Karen Gentry

In Comstock Park Public Schools, all Pine Island Elementary third-graders gathered early Monday morning to learn about the ins and outs of the lunchroom, but several were thinking about the school year ahead.

Dalia Hoyt is excited to start third grade because she likes to “learn and play with friends.” She enjoys all kinds of music and is looking forward to music class. 

Third-grader Saleh Suarez was “not really” excited about the first day of school, but he does enjoy science. “You figure out things you never figured out before,” Saleh said. 

Avery Adrianse said his favorite class is science, with math as a close second. He likes science because you get “to do experiments like a volcano.” 

Principal Brian Morrison was excited to see staff and kids fill the hallways. Initial enrollment numbers are looking positive with some families still completing registration. 

Following the challenges of the pandemic years, attendance is a big focus, he said. “Some of our students struggled last year getting back into the routine of school.”Pine Island has partnered with Kent ISD and its Strive for Less than Five program to decrease absences. This will be linked to the school’s Leader in Me program that asks students to “Put first things first” and strive to be absent less than five times this entire year. End-of-the-month “Panther Pride Celebrations” will recognize those kids who Strive for 5.

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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

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