GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Students in the state's fourth-largest school district will notice three major changes when classes start next Tuesday.
Grand Rapids Public Schools has undergone some big transformations under the new superintendent, Teresa Weatherall Neal.
At the high schools, students no longer have to leave their classroom every other day for core classes, or have to leave their school to take certain electives at another school.
The biggest change comes in the area of blended learning; rotations have been eliminated.
The concept of blended learning came into play three years ago. Students would rotate between classroom instruction and technology-based learning for math, science, and history every two to three days. They would also switch teachers.
The intent was that teachers like Union High School social studies teacher Joel Rutherford would give instruction, then the next day, students would head to a computer lab with another teacher to research that topic on the Internet. Hence, blended learning.
The first year of rotations, Rutherford only saw his students every three days. Last year, the district reduced it down to two days, and now, they're gone.
He says the method made it very challenging to meet students' individual needs, and he's excited about this school year.
"Probably the biggest thing we say in education is it's all about the relationships you build with your students, and with the rotation gone now and seeing my kids everyday, I think that's very, very possible," he said.
"However, that instructor will still be implementing the more blended side where you see the students using the Internet to conduct research, to create power points, to work in group settings," said GRPS Communication Director John Helmholdt.
Rutherford says he can still teach in a traditional setting, with books, and then whenever he wants, break out the laptops to present projects. He says kids have really blossomed using the technology.
Helmoldt says the rotations have only been eliminated from the high schools so far.
The two other big changes at GRPS include the controversial HUBS. They're gone, which means students no longer have to travel to other schools for electives or extra-curricular activities.
In addition, elementary art and music have been completely restored to two semesters. The classes had been cut down to only one semester.