Districts vary; all elementary schools offer families optional hybrid models

 WHATCOM — Some schools in north Whatcom County have already returned elementary-level students to optional in-person learning in school buildings, while others are set to follow suit in the coming weeks.

Reopening plans differ from district to district around the county, however, with each taking a slightly different approach.

  Here’s an overview:

Lynden

  Students in grades 3 through 5 returned to in-person school on Monday, Oct. 26, in the Lynden School District, after kindergarten and grades 1 and 2 started Oct. 12.

Kids in Lynden are attending school four days a week in-person, with remote learning happening Fridays. Lynden students in grades 6-8, as well as high schoolers, do not yet have a set return date, and it all depends on a variety of COVID-19-related factors, Superintendent Jim Frey said.

Ferndale

The Ferndale School District brought students with complex Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) back to school on Monday, Oct. 19, along with kindergartners.

  On Monday, Oct. 26, the district brought back first graders, and on Monday, Nov. 2, second and third graders will be back at school. The following Monday, Nov. 9, will see the return of fourth and fifth graders.

“From everything I’ve heard, it’s going fine,” Ferndale Superintendent Linda Quinn said. “Last week was a success with the kindergartners.”

Between 25 and 30 percent of students are still learning from home, as chosen by their parents, Quinn said. The rest are back in school in a hybrid model with half attending school in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half going Thursdays and Fridays.

Ferndale middle and high schoolers are planned to be back in school Feb. 1, with education happening remotely until then.

Quinn said the district also started bringing students back in-person for some athletics and activities practices on Monday, Oct. 26, working in cohorts and small groups for the social interaction and physical activities they need while observing social distancing rules.

The district is also bringing kids back on more of a tutorial basis, Quinn said. For example, if a student is struggling with a concept remotely, he or she can sign up to come in and meet in small groups with teachers in particular study areas for the little extra help.

“I hope we’ll have this thing under control and we can bring them all back in 2021,” Quinn said. “I think we’re doing okay. We’re being really strict about the masks and the distance and we wrote 22 new pages worth of rules, for when things get clean and what happens if there’s any symptoms. We’re definitely taking it seriously, but I just think kids need to be back, if we can do it safely. Especially the little ones.”

Meridian

In an update posted Oct. 14, Meridian Superintendent James Everett outlined the district’s reopening plan.

Kindergartners returned in-person Monday, Oct. 19, for two days a week with remote learning happening the remaining three days. Meridian brought first- and second-graders back to campuses Oct. 26, while monitoring the transition to this hybrid learning model during the planning process for the third- to fifth-graders’ return to school.

  “We’re looking at three weeks or longer,” Everett said. “It depends on how everything transpires.”

Older students’ return will depend on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and the success seen by Meridian and other districts in bringing younger kids back to school.

Meridian brought back some sports-specific athletic training to Meridian High School the week beginning Oct. 12, and coaching staff is making sure guidelines are in place and being followed, according to Everett’s letter.

Nooksack Valley

According to a document provided by administrative assistant Lindsay Hicks with the Nooksack Valley School District, Nooksack Valley began its phased in-person learning plan Oct. 13 with students in kindergarten through fifth grade returning to school.

The initial return started Sept. 14 in most Nooksack Valley school buildings, with small groups of students who have no internet connection or who have special needs returning. 

  Those returning Oct. 13 in kindergarten through fifth grade are in a hybrid model of students attending class in-person two day each week every other day. Mondays are always a NV@Home learning day for students, allowing students to learn and practice routines for health and safety in smaller groups to prepare for the eventual return to school four days a week.

Preschool students returned Oct. 20 to school two days per week with half days in the morning.

The target date for Phase III of Nooksack Valley’s reopening plan is Nov. 3, when students would begin attending school for four full days per week. Middle and high schoolers will attend in a hybrid model for half days in the morning two days per week, with assigned days based on last names. Mondays will continue to be full remote learning days.

Tentatively, the period running Nov. 30 through Jan. 29 is planned to include full days Tuesday through Friday, with Mondays becoming asynchronous learning for students in all grades.

Mount Baker

According to an update posted Oct. 23 by Mount Baker Superintendent Mary Sewright, Mount Baker plans to return all students in kindergarten through sixth grade to in-person learning beginning Nov. 16 using an AA/BB model.

This model means that students in one cohort will attend school from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Tuesdays, with remote learning in the afternoons those days, as well as Wednesdays through Fridays.

Students in the other cohort will attend school in-person from 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays and Fridays, with remote learning in the afternoons and Mondays through Wednesdays. Nov. 9-10 are planned as asynchronous remote learning days for students in kindergarten through sixth grade to allow students to complete assignments as teachers set up their rooms.

Remote learning is planned to continue for middle and high schoolers until the end of first semester Jan. 28, with Career and Technical Education students allowed on campus for hands-on learning needs.

  Mount Baker will also phase in an internet cafe Nov. 16 to support struggling students or students who have no connectivity, English language learners, homeless students and life-skills students.