school

A classroom scene at Cascadia Elementary School of Ferndale last November indicates where all schools are trying to get to in the 2021 new year — in-person learning, or at least some version of it. The challenge and the guidelines have been toughest for the middle and high school levels of education. (Brent Lindquist/Lynden Tribune)

NV aims for Jan. 12, Lynden assessing, many have set Feb. 1 

WHATCOM ­— Most public school districts across the county plan to see more students back in buildings in the new year. 

It has been a back-and-forth effort — whether remote or in-person or a hybrid of the two — in how learning has happening so far in the 2020-21 school year, especially at the middle and high school levels.  

Due to Gov. Jay Inslee’s Dec. 16 proclamation encouraging schools to bring students back in-person, Whatcom districts are adjusting to phase students back in.

Elementary-age and students with the highest needs have already been in-person in some school districts, so the new priority now is to get middle and high schoolers back on their campuses. 

Here’s where each school district stands with its plans:

 

Lynden

The Lynden School District hasn’t set an exact date for middle and high school students to return to in-person learning. 

A previous announcement from the school district said it would evaluate where the county is at in terms of COVID-19 transmission the first week of January in order to determine a start date for secondary students. 

“The main reason for waiting until break is over to decide on a starting date is to monitor COVID-19 indicators and transmission rates in Whatcom County,” Superintendent Jim Frey wrote on Dec. 22. “This will give us a chance to see if there is a spike in positive cases and/or other indicators that may impact our decision.”

The Lynden middle and high schools went to a hybrid format in November, but it only lasted about 10 days as local COVID infection rates were on the rise again.

The Lynden Christian Schools of about 1,100 students have been in-person since Sept. 1.

 

Meridian

The Meridian School District had a plan in place earlier to bring middle school and high school students back to campus Feb. 1, and it will stick

with that scenario despite the new guidelines from the governor’s office. 

Superintendent James Everett said there is too much to do and plan for to bring back students sooner. He also cited possible transmission spikes after the holidays as a reason for holding to the district’s original plan. 

“As has been the case each time we have moved to welcome students back to campus, we will continue to coordinate with our local health department and ensure the conditions are appropriate for such a return,” Everett said. 

 

Mount Baker

A hybrid approach is being taken in the Mount Baker School District for its secondary students.

Superintendent Mary Sewright said this: “Early in January we will reach out to junior high and high school families with communication about a hybrid program, followed by a survey in which we will ask students to attest to viable learning options we are able to offer,. We plan to go forward offering a hybrid program of in-person and remote learning for our junior high and high school students starting Feb. 1.”

 

Nooksack Valley

The Nooksack Valley School District plans to bring its secondary students back to campus Jan. 12. 

Superintendent Mark Johnson said new metrics have indicated safety in schools. He also added the district’s approach to having students in classrooms safely has been successful. 

“Our protocols and procedures to mitigate transmission have worked,” Johnson said. “In fact, the county health department has praised our work in this area including our contact tracing protocols.”

 

Ferndale

The Ferndale School District will likely release a plan this week for bringing back middle and high school students. That is after collecting information from families on whether or not they would send their students back to in-person learning if given the option to. 

Superintendent Linda Quinn said the goal is to inform the community by the end of this week what the district’s plan will be moving forward. 

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to get our older students back into their classrooms, even if only part-time at first,” Quinn said. “However, we will proceed cautiously, because we cannot afford to compromise the safety precautions that have protected us so far.”

 

Blaine

Blaine grades 6-9 were to start on Jan. 6 with half-day in-person learning alternating weekly with online learning, while grades 10-12 will begin in-person learning on Jan. 11, The Northern Light newspaper reported.

The district website said there would be a middle school hybrid learning information night on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

The Blaine School District has fairly consistently had a low COVID infection case rate. It was at 125, lowest in the county, on Tuesday.