Coloma staggers students' first day back in classrooms

NOW: Coloma staggers students’ first day back in classrooms

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COLOMA, Mich. -- School is officially back in session in Michigan, with a handful of Michiana schools starting their semester Monday – whether that be in-person or virtually.

The focus for the start of this year at Coloma Community Schools is easing kids back in, bringing back just one grade per day for the first week and doing half days targeted at getting settled in with the new structure.

“I think bringing in a portion of our students allowed teachers to take a deep breath and relax and see if our safety protocols worked and how the kids responded,” said Superintendent Dave Ehlers.

Ehlers, also able to take his own sigh of relief, after the district marked its first day of school a success.

Between all of the buildings, only the oldest class level was brought back Monday, which will be followed by each subsequent grade throughout the week.

And – for only about four hours –  as teachers went over safety protocols with students then cleared the building for cleaning by noon.

“Each hour the teachers went through different CDC guidelines or different hallway conduct, how we’re going to use bathroom passes,” said Kevin Vanpeteghem, an English teacher at Coloma High School. “There’s been a lot of good thought put into the strategies and we’re doing everything we can to keep things going in this environment.”

Ehlers also changed the way students are welcomed back for their first day and has different things to look out for in each building this year.

“We had a nice open house environment set up outside with yard markers to come up and get a chance to meet the teacher, and you’re looking for are they social distancing, are the kids being responsible,” said Ehlers.

Even though Coloma gave families the option to choose between virtual and in-person learning, most chose to return to the classroom.

Vanpeteghem said he’s thankful for these decisions being made early, giving teachers more time to prepare.

“Obviously it comes with anxieties, fears and worries – but as long as you’re trying to do things the right way, which we are, I think face-to face-learning is so much better, there’s so much more students can gain from it and there’s more attention you can give as a teacher,” said Vanpeteghem, “And I think the kids need it, you see them today being together and seeing each other – not only academically but socially it’s important.”

While Coloma will continue with those half days this week as they bring each grade back for their first day, starting next Tuesday, all students will be brought back into buildings with the goal of holding in-person classes for those kids the entire semester.

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