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Alpena Public Schools secondary students back in classrooms four days a week

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Cousins Keira Paad, left, and Kylee Paad, right, play air hockey Monday at the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena.

ALPENA — Thunder Bay Junior High School and Alpena High School students had mixed feelings about heading back to the classroom four days a week.

Monday marked the first time all middle and high school students were allowed in their respective schools at the same time this year. Until Monday, middle and high school students were split into two cohorts — a green and a white cohort — with each cohort attending school two days a week and utilizing Wednesdays as a remote learning day.

The Alpena Public Schools Board of Education recently instructed district officials to bring all middle and high school students together for in-person learning four days a week. Wednesdays remain a remote learning day for students.

John Eaton, a freshman at Alpena High School, was excited that school felt “almost” like normal.

“It was really nice because I haven’t seen half of the school in over a year,” he said. “It was nice to see everybody, but it’s a lot more crowded.”

But Thunder Bay Junior High School sixth grader Jaidyn Jackson said she thought all of the students heading back to school with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was a bad idea.

“It was kind of a good day for me,” she said.

Kylee Paad, a sixth grader at the junior high school, said returning to a full school was “confusing” as there were a lot more people in the building. Paad transitioned to the junior high school this year from elementary school last year, but has never had a chance to experience the school with all the students there.

“I got to see a lot of my friends from elementary that I haven’t seen because they were on green and I was on white,” Paad said of being in separate cohorts than her friends.

Her cousin, Keira Paad, a seventh grader at the school, said it was “weird” returning to school because there were so many people.

“I kind of liked it because there were more of my friends around, but I didn’t like how crowded it was because it just felt like a million people joined our school randomly, because the white cohort, which is what I was on…we had less people than the green cohort,” she said.

Paad said it was also weird seeing some of her friends in real life instead of on the phone.

None of the students said they enjoyed learning remotely. Instead, they were excited their teachers would be able to provide them with more structure, such as reminding them of deadlines or helping them work through school work when they’re confused.

Midway through the school day, Superintendent Dave Rabbideau said all the reports he received from leadership were good.

Rabbideau said district officials will continue implementing the COVID-19 procedures and protocols that work. Some of those procedures and protocols include masking, social distancing, handwashing, and cleaning.

“We’re just going to keep doing what works and maybe give some more reminders than we have in the past about remaining separated,” he said.

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