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Happy to be Back to School: Paramount Adjusts to New Normal

As summer begins to wind down, kids at one Kalamazoo school packed up their backpacks just in time for the new school year. Paramount Charter Academy kicked off its 2020-21 school year with two return-to-school models: in-person and hybrid.

“It feels great to have kids back in the building,” said David King, director of school quality at National Heritage Academies (NHA). “There may be fewer students, and you can’t see their smiles, but it’s a slight indication that things are getting back to normal.”

Now finalizing the first week of school, everyone is adapting to new safety protocols and getting back to learning in-person and remotely. The school opened with in-person instruction, in a traditional classroom environment, for kindergarten through fifth-grade students and a hybrid model for sixth- through eighth-grade students where they spent half of their time learning in-person at the school and the other half logging in online and learning remotely.

“We’ve just finished the first day of school and I’ve been smiling all day,” said Christine Welc, principal at Paramount Charter Academy. “Teachers were prepped and ready to welcome both in-person and virtual students. My favorite part of the day was seeing students get off the bus with masks on and seeing their ‘smiling eyes’.”

Along with added safety precautions, such as hygiene stations and signs to encourage handwashing, students were welcomed back with one-way hallways and socially distanced classrooms, along with many other protocols. Students also are given mask breaks throughout the day, in closely monitored situations, allowing additional time for kids to adjust to this new norm.

“It is a different feel for sure. Fewer students are in the building, which makes it much quieter, but it also allows us to social distance much easier!” said Welc. “We will keep working hard to teach our little ones the new mask rules and how to keep distance, but we know that will take a lot of patience and creative ways to make it fun for them.”

Students brought backpacks full of supplies, ranging from traditional books and pencils to the now common hygienic and safety supplies, including masks and hand sanitizer. As was expected, students’ first week of school looked a bit different this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Students and teachers focused on learning best practices centered around hygiene, social distancing, and encouraging mask-wearing.

In addition to students learning in their traditional classrooms, remote-learning students also made a few adjustments to get accustomed to their learning routine.

“Our virtual classes were filled with smiles and a lot of questions that we were slowly able to answer,” said Welc. “I have a great team of NHA principals that I was able to steal some tricks and tips from because they started a few days before us! We already know so much more than we did at 8 a.m. this morning, so I know that tomorrow will be even better than today!”

Paramount, along with NHA’s network of schools across the country also gave their students a step up with technology by providing a Chromebook to each student. Their goal is aimed at ensuring students can seamlessly switch from various learning scenarios and avoid learning as a result of the coronavirus.

“Paramount has such a great opportunity to grow our students this year and I can’t wait to make it happen!” said Welc.

Watch Fox 17 discuss the first day back to school with Principal Welc.