Lynden Schools Expanding Return to In-School Learning

Students in grades K-5 at Lynden Schools have already experienced a return to in-school learning during the pandemic. Next up: grades 6-12. 

Starting Monday, Nov. 16, middle and high school students in Option 1 learning choices return to the building in a hybrid manner, with about half the students attending live on Monday and Wednesday and the other half attending Tuesday and Thursday. 

Ian Freeman, LHS principal, says the planning process has proven challenging. “We want to be able to serve all students and families,” he says. “There are a lot of different needs and preferences right now, ranging from not feeling ready to come back at all to wondering why we don’t just return to school full-time and five days a week. Balancing these expectations with health, safety and learning has been the most challenging.” 

The elementary ages have already experienced this next step, first for K-2 and then for grades 3-5. Michelle Nilsen, Bernice Vossbeck Elementary principals, says it has forced teachers, students and parents into an education experiment of navigating schedules, new methods of keeping students engaged and confronting the challenges of technology in the hands of the youngest learners. Through it all, though, she says having children back in classrooms has proven powerful for students to learn effectively. 

“It has felt as though a current of electricity is running through our hallways,” she says. “Teachers and children are excited to be back and learning together. Children’s laughter, voices and inquiry have boosted our morale and brought some semblance of normalcy to BVE.” 

“Kids haven’t missed a beat,” says Courtney Ross, Fisher Elementary principals. “While it’s different and lacks some of the things I thought they would really be disappointed about, it turns out they’re so grateful to be back together that the things I thought would be issues — recess changes, all the safety protocols, lunch in the classroom — aren’t issues at all. They’re an inspiration.” 

Both Ross and Nilsen say the morale boost has been palpable. “The laughter, chatter and energy of our students bring us a sense of normalcy and remind us of how important this work is,” Ross says. 

To gain that same experience at grades 6-12, Freeman says it will require partnerships and cooperation to ensure a safe campus. “That means supporting the school’s mask expectations, being aware of student health and keeping them home if they have any sign of illness and helping students maintain a positive mindset to recognize that everyone is doing their best, but this is new territory for all of us,” he says. 

As students at the high school return, Freeman has a few tips based on procedural changes:

• Dress warmly: The high school will use outside walkways and exterior doors to access classrooms and teacher may keep windows or doors open more to help circulate fresh air. 

• Bring a small snack: No meals will be served at the high school, but students can have a small snack during passing periods while outside. 

• Stay scheduled and organized: Freeman says that Green Day classes will end on Dec. 15 and that date will serve as the final semester grade for that course, requiring students to stay on top of assignments and requirements.