WEST MICHIGAN — It’s officially back to school season with several West Michigan districts holding in-person classes for the first time since March.
Of course, those classes look very different for students and teachers this year due to COVID-19.
While every school is approaching the fall semester differently, for schools and families that opted to start the year with in-person learning, they said it felt good to be back.
“I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night,” said Lakewood Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Steven Skalka.
Dr. Skalka said the he had some first-day-of-school jitters, but in a good way.
“Maybe we missed out on a few high-fives from teachers and students, but there was such warmth that it was very very similar to any other school year,” he said.
According to Dr. Skalka, right now they have about two-thirds of their students who opted for in-person learning for the first nine weeks of the year. The district sent out multiple family-surveys to reach that decision to offer both options.
He said, “We were running about 70/30 in that direction back in July and so it made the decision for us pretty easy to say we need to have an in-person option.”
Grandville Public Schools is also seeing similar number; with about 80% choosing in-person, 20% remote.
Grandville High School Principal, Adam Lancto, said in addition to mask-mandates, hand sanitizing stations, social distancing, and more cleaning, they’ve also changed how students navigate the school.
He said, “Our hallways, we've put basically a two lane highway system throughout the high school.We've made certain stairwells up only or down only, kind of mimicking the flow of traffic around through school. “
Dr.Skalka said that they too are re-imagining their space for things like P.E., recess, and lunchtime.
“For lunches we are certainly going to, for the elementary school, we are going to try to bring lunch into classrooms and at the secondary, we will stagger lunches and we will use all available space including outside, including maybe some foyer’s or larger hallways,” he said.
Lakewood is also doing temperature checks before every student steps foot inside the building and before they get on the bus. So far, Dr. Skalka said that everyone seems to know and respect the rules and they are just happy to be back.
He said, “Parents were dropping-off with masks, everyone was masked-up, the kids got out, they maintained the social distancing without a lot of direction, so I think people know the right things to do, they are going to do them, they want to be with her friends, they want to be in school.”
Lakewood Public Schools is taking things nine-weeks at a time, so if a student is doing in-person now, they can continue doing so, or switch over to online only for the next quarter if they wish.
Both districts are working closely with the local health departments to keep track of any potential outbreaks and are keeping a close eye on any new guidelines from the Governor’s Office.
Grand Rapids Public Schools and Rockford Public Schools are both opting for remote-only learning for the first couple weeks of the school year.