Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Ironwood kicks off school year


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Ironwood - The classrooms of the Luther L. Wright K-12 School were filled with students for the first time since the switch to distance learning last spring in response to the coronavirus pandemic as the Ironwood Area Schools kicked off the 2020-2021 school year Tuesday.

"We had a smooth start. We had lots of help as the kids got off the buses and into their classrooms," K-12 Principal Melissa Nigh said. "I don't know if it could have come any better, at least from my perspective."

She said there may have been some small hiccups but that the staff was handling them as they arose.

Students in the district had three options for attending school during the coronavirus pandemic - they could attend in-person, remotely through the district or enroll in the Upper Peninsula Virtual Academy.

For those who chose in-person learning, students in pre-K through sixth grade are required to wear masks in the common areas, but can be unmasked in the classrooms as they are staying in the same cohort and not mingling with those who aren't in their individual classes.

For the older students in grades seven through 12, Superintendent Travis Powell previously said they need to wear masks all day as the different class schedules mean there is more movement between classes.

The older students are splitting time between remote and in-person learning in an effort to reduce the number of students in the building each day, with students attending in-person two days a week and learning remotely for the other three.

As for busing, Powell said students aren't required to socially distance on the buses - a measure that would require the district to make roughly six times the number of trips than it needs when buses can be filled to capacity - but they have to use hand sanitizer prior to getting on the bus and wear masks during the ride.

A mixture of classroom deliveries and the utilization of three cafeterias over two lunch periods allows the district to feed kids while avoiding the large gathering of kids that lunches would cause during a normal year.

Although they likely want a return to normal, Nigh said Tuesday the students seem to be taking the changes in stride and are likely still processing the new reality.

"I think it's just different yet for them, they're still thinking it through," Nigh said, adding kids generally seem to be able to adjust to change better than adults.