By N3 News
“I’ve always loved the first day of school better than the last day of school. Firsts are best because they are beginnings”- Jenny Han
Starts Monday, right? Whether heading back into the familiar buildings, classrooms, hallways and cafeterias or firing up the computer at home Newaygo County students will be starting perhaps the most atypical year of academic achievement one could imagine.
N3 is looking to explore this sea change of scholastic systems on a number of levels. We hope to bring contributions from students, teachers, parents, and all others touched by the changes that lie ahead for our schools and the students who populate them. To chronicle what will undoubtedly be an uncommonly unusual undertaking as our schools begin this much anticipated adventure.
We began with a look at Newaygo Schools and Superintendent Peg Mathis.
Now we move to Grant where many might have begun the school year last week by catching the Tiger volleyball team play their home opener against Tri County last week or watching the soccer team taking on Northern Michigan Christian.
Because while school is set to open, volleyball and soccer remain on hold for now.
“In 17 years as a basketball coach I always told my players to love the battle so here in Grant we’re loving the battle,” said GPS Superintendent Brett Zuver who was kind enough to take time from an uber-busy schedule to answer some of our questions. “We have so many good people here and that has made all the difference in the world”
About 500 students have chosen to opt for virtual learning during the first 9 weeks of school.
According to Zuver the percentage of students is equally shared among elementary Middle schol and high school.
“Having it balanced is a good thing. This way there isn’t a huge difference in the number of students in each building. It makes social distancing easier as well.”
N3- How is school going to look at Grant this year?
Well we obviously want it to look as traditional as possible. One thing different is we’re going with a shorter school day releasing an hour earlier to help our staff time to give assistance and respond to the needs of our remote learners.
N3-How is online learning being handled in elementary? One teacher per grade level dedicated to online or each teacher doing both? Any difference with MS and HS?
Each teacher will be responsible for both online and in school. We’re in a unique situation especially with our dual immersion programs. We have right around 40% involved in it so we’re using a platform called Maven. This will be helpful in facing the challenges of connectivity since it’s not solely based on internet signal and students can use cell phones and such.
It's more than a Learning Management System, it’s also a way to check in and see how they’re doing every day instead of just pushing out content. We call it an engagement management system.
This has meant more work for staff for sure but they’ve been awesome about it. A couple have taken the lead to help others get up to speed.The plan is to have the classroom experience be the same experience for our students working remotely.
If I’m in school 3 weeks and get sick and have to stay home I won't be missing anything when I get back it will be the same instruction and I can transfer back in seamlessly
Like I said a lot of work but our students are worth it.
N3-What are the most significant challenges you see ahead?
Absolutely every aspect of school has been touched significantly Not just transportation or food service, everyone.
It doesn’t matter your role, every person is going to be a first year educator. Every year you might have a couple of new teachers or teachers just out of college but it's so different for everyone this year even veteran teachers are going to be first year.
It will also be very different for students with the new procedures and protocols
It’s a huge change for everyone and we keep reminding ourselves it's not just Grant. It's every school in the United States having to make significant changes.
N3-Situations such as these often reveal the character of a community. What are the strengths and assets of the district in facing these challenges?
We’re happy the parents and students have been able to ask questions and they have been incredibly supportive.
Myself and other staff didn’t have answers all summer especially with all the changes. That was the toughest thing but never once did we have anyone get frustrated or lash out. They’ve all been so supportive the entire way and that’s been a huge benefit.
We’ve been talking with directors and principals about how maintaining a positive attitude is so crucial to everybody because and being an old coach I know that a team takes on the personality of their leader. If we’re hanging our heads, kicking the dirt and saying how horrible this is, that's how everyone else will react. We need to make sure to find positives in everything. That's one thing we really worked on.There will be challenges to be sure but what a blessing to be able to have our students back in school. We haven’t been able to do this in 6 months and it's so fun to see them again. Yes, we’re doing things differently but we’re doing these things so we can have our students back where they belong. It’s a positive thing for us. We’re excited and can’t wait.
My favorite part of the job is seeing the students and feeding off their energy and doing that every day and I have to admit I got a little lonesome since last spring. The last couple weeks has been great with some of our students back practicing again and preparing for seasons that are going to be played. Students have come by to check in and everyone is ready and excited .
I think there is some quiet nervousness for sure but we’re going to address it together and do our absolute best to ensure everyones taken care of.That nervousness means you care. If you didn’t have a few butterflies it means you weren’t as invested.
Like with coaching, I’m sure we’ll have to make some halftime adjustments.
Many thanks Mr. Z.
And again, please refer to the school’s website...
...where you will find a wealth of information about the coming year.