The April return to four full days of in-person learning for students at both Nooksack Valley High School and NV Middle School has proven a boon for student morale and academic achievement, say the two schools’ principals.
“Our students are extremely excited to be back in school with all their peers and they have shared that learning is so much easier in person than it is remotely,” says Joel VanderYacht, NVMS principal. “They are also glad to be back to having lunch with their peers and being able to hang out with friends they haven’t seen in over a year.”
About 95% of NVMS students have returned to school via in-person learning and those students have been more successful in understanding the classroom content, VanderYacht says.
Matt Galley, NVHS principal and next year’s superintendent, says staff can agree that the students have been more motivated and engaged throughout the week. He adds that students tell him they are learning more.
The change can streamline the role of the teacher too. “Even though we still have remote-only students to support, teachers are able to plan a little more ‘normally’ knowing a majority of their students will be in class each week,” Galley says. “It also needs to be said that supporting students in class and at home simultaneously is incredibly challenging, so hat’s off to our teachers for the commitment to every one of their students.”
Teachers love having the students in class, both because they can adjust lessons easier based on how students are performing but because being in person allows teachers to collect additional information on how well students understand concepts. “They can follow up with students who don’t understand, based on how students performed,” VanderYacht says, “and they can adjust the following day lesson when students are struggling with a specific concept.”
Throughout it all, having more students in the building gives the school a sense of normalcy. While classroom day-to-day routines have largely returned, there are still areas that look altogether different because of restrictions forced by the pandemic, such as school socials, assemblies, field trips and even lunch. “It’s nice to know we have a very predictable schedule for all families and one that meets their needs,” Galley says.
The nature of remote learning meant there was an emphasis on math, reading and writing. Returning to full-day classes allows a focus on a wider variety of content, VanderYacht says, such as science and social students.
Having students in the building increases student engagement, which benefits academic success. “We know we can deeply engage students when they are in our rooms,” Galley says, “that’s been the foundation of our work as a system for the las 20 years. If we get them in the room, they will succeed.”