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Positives Far Outweigh the Negatives: First Week of School


Alma High School’s First Week: Positives far outweigh negatives

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


ALMA — Alma high school principal Brian Kirkendoll was finally able to relax this past week. 


The school is in session.


Busses rolled, there was chatter in the hallway, and teachers were instructing — in person. 


“I have slept better this week than I have in months,” Kirkendoll said. “I feel less stress and less worried since we’ve started school, even though it’s been way different.”


After 161 days on lockdown, Alma High School was a beehive of activity Monday as doors opened at 7:30 a.m. By Tuesday, Kirkendoll and assistant principals Jason Reeves and Dr. Stacie Wood began to allow kids to spend 15 minutes in the student union from 7:30 to 7:45, then report to their classes — as long as they wore masks and practiced social distancing.


Kids followed suit. 


“It’s why we’re here; having kids here is why we’re in this business,” Kirkendoll said. “The positives far outweigh the negatives. Other than a few things we need to fine-tune, everything else has been great.”


"We have had a great first week," Alma middle school principal Bob Wolfe said. "Things have gone really well. Our students are learning our new procedures and following instructions very nicely."


Alma’s assistant superintendent Travis Biggs said there were 3,250 kids enrolled at Alma’s four schools — Alma High School, Alma Middle School, Alma Intermediate, and Alma Primary — for on-campus, blended, and remote.


Kirkendoll was happy but not surprised by the way kids responded to a new way of doing things. Social distancing, wearing masks, and changing the way they eat lunch is part of the 2020-21 school curriculum that no one imagined six months ago. 


“Some of the restrictions are minor inconveniences,” Kirkendoll said. “Teachers, I know they’re under some additional stress, but we all are — that was to be expected. I’ve never done it this way before, but we can’t go back to the way we’ve done it. What we're doing is different, and if we can just find ways to make it work.”


Kirkendoll stressed to his students to be responsible outside school. 


“(Students) need to social distance and wear masks outside of school, too,” he said. “If they don’t wear a mask, they could bring it (COVID-19) here. It affects all of us.”


Kirkendoll believes Alma’s hallways and classrooms are as clean as they’ve ever been. Each day, all Alma schools are thoroughly sprayed with sanitizer. 


“We’re sanitizing and we’re covered up; we’re trying to social distance,” he said. “I've been very happy and very pleased; I just hope that we can continue to come to school. 


“I think it’s great for our kids.”


Alma’s volleyball team opened the season on the road this week. They’ll be home this week. The same goes for the football team.


“The volleyball team has played some and the football team opens this week,” Kirkendoll said. “If we can get to play some football games and just get some normalcy back in our lives, that would be great.


“It’s never going to be the way it was, but I think we can get close.”


There are other lingering questions, though, Kirkendoll said. 


Teachers are adjusting on the fly, such as those who teach blended kids, those who teach kids on campus, and those working from home. 


“Most of the questions teachers have had is how to address everything (students), whether it’s blended (classes), remote, or in students in a class,” Kirkendoll said. “But here’s the thing ... all we can do is the best we can. We have teachers that are perfectionists, and they’re not going to be able to do it (the old way) because we’ve never done this way in the history of the world. 


“This is the first time we’ve ever done it this way — let’s give us a minute to get it right.”


"We worked really hard upfront preparing for students to safely return, and although there have been a few things we have had to adjust to, it has gone even better than we had hoped," Wolfe added. "Several things we have put in place, we will likely keep doing even when everyone comes back."