Upper Peninsula children head back-to-school

North Central UP

NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) – Some students may have already gone back to school but for many in the Upper Peninsula, Tuesday was the first day of school. It’s been about five and a half months since students have been learning in a physical classroom.

Negaunee Public Schools say they are excited to be up and running for their students.

“A lot of planning by a lot of people has taken place to make today possible,” said Negaunee Public Schools Superintendent, Dan Skewis. “It’s nice to not be planning right now and to actually be carrying out all of the plans we have in place.”

Natalie Baroni, a Kindergarten teacher at Lakeview Elementary was one of those people who had to plan ahead for the school year.

“In order to make it safe, we really had to think about spacing as much as we can in the classroom,” said Baroni. “Taking out soft toys, you know things that suck in the germs and whatnot. Making sure that I had the partitions in place for when we eat lunch and have snacks. Making sure I knew how to use the hand sanitizer and the sanitizing stuff that we use for the room.”

It might have been extra work, but Baroni says it feels great to be back in the classroom with students.

“This is what the kids need, is to be with us,” said Baroni. “This interaction does so much for their interaction, their social/emotional education. So I’m super grateful and happy to be back at Lakeview.”

Negaunee Public Schools has 1,540 students in the entire district. Right now, 243 students are staying home and enrolled in the school’s Irontown Virtual program.

“We’ve said all along that we feel face-to-face instruction is without a doubt the best way for us to deliver,” said Skewis. “For students and families that decided to stay home to start the school year, we respect their decision and we understand that there are circumstances at home that may prevent them from coming to us face-to-face. But a lot of planning has taken place to ensure a safe start. We’ve had some nice guidance from the Department of Education at the state level and we were able to incorporate some of the plans and protocols they have put together?”

Some of those new protocols include wearing masks and having mask breaks outside, staggered lunches and partitions in between desks where students would eat.

“And even though it’s going to look a little bit different, we hope as the year continues we can loosen up on some of the restrictions,” said Skewis. “We’re hoping that a vaccine comes out in the next few months and that will maybe ensure some people’s feelings on how safe a school is.”

Local 3 asked viewers to submit their back-to-school pictures, here are some from around the Upper Peninsula:

Leah, Little Lambs Childhood Center, Sault Ste. Marie
Emma, West Iron County Schools
Kennidy, Negaunee Public Schools
Sophie, Gladstone High School
Vinnie and Daphne, Negaunee Public Schools

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