Adjustments: Spacing out desks, juggling some classes, all wearing face protection

LYNDEN ­— Lynden Christian Schools is making its plan for the fall — to begin on schedule Sept. 1 with everyone in-person on campus full-time.

The school system announced the start date last week on social media. Superintendent Paul Bootsma said there had been talk in the community of LCS possibly starting earlier, so the purpose was to clarify that information. 

Bootsma said the schools’ administration team has been working on a plan to meet the guidelines set by the state in order to be on campus for the 2020-21 year. 

“We have the space for students to be six feet apart,” he said. “When students are seated, they’re going to be six feet apart from each other. We’ve been working on that.”

That means that in a typical high school classroom this fall, there will be 21 student desks spaced six feet apart. Staff are working on student schedules right now to ensure no more than 21 students per classroom.

Bootsma said face masks or shields will also be a requirement for students and staff to return to campus. 

“We, like every other school in the state, will be following that,” he said. “There’s exceptions to that if there’s physical, emotional, social or mental disabilities a student might have that would prohibit that and we’ll navigate that.”

In general, the school will follow social distancing and face mask guidelines set by the state, along with proper and frequent sanitization and disinfection procedures.

Bootsma said the plan is to be on campus full-time, although options for remote teaching and learning will be in place if students need to or choose to stay at home.

“We basically have one plan because we’re going to have students that are out sick in traditional illness and students that have to quarantine or are sick with COVID,” he said. “We’re just shifting our whole model to be able to work from a learning management system.”

Bootsma called the learning management system a pivot point for the school. If a student chooses to stay home or must stay home, the child will still be able to access all lesson plans online through the system the school chooses to use. This system will be available to all students in the system whether they are at home or in the classroom.

The plan to return to campus safely includes repurposing larger rooms in the buildings for classes. In particular, Bootsma noted, one high school class now with 29 students scheduled in it is looking at using other spaces for that class in order to follow distancing guidelines. 

“We have our Worship and Fine Arts Center, basically our auditorium, and it would be conceivable they would use that for that period,” he said. “There’s like 600 seats in there, so they would all be six feet apart in a certain area.”

Other rooms that are being considered for larger high school classes are the music rooms when they’re not being used by the music programs in the morning.

Bootsma compared putting together a plan for the new school year to remodeling a house. 

“It has been challenging, uncertain and tense to plan for this school year,” he said. “It’s not really new — you’re just finding and thinking about things you didn’t know you had to. While that’s been super challenging and tiring, it’s also been pretty invigorating and we’re just appreciative of the community support and God’s grace through this.”