Changes are coming next week for Nooksack Valley Schools students. The middle and high school students will return to in-person learning for the first time since March while the K-5 students shift from an A/B schedule in-person to four days each week in the classroom with Monday remaining a remote learning day.
“We are excited to move to this next phase and in partnership we are confident we will keep moving forward,” says Matt Galley, Nooksack Valley High School principal.
The middle and high schools are returning to school in a hybrid A/B model.
Galley says with so many moving parts, keeping a clear communication with everyone has been a challenge, but he’s seen a willingness for people to be patient and flexible. “We are really looking forward to settling into a routine with students in the building,” he says. “We are ready.”
Joel VanderYacht, principal of Nooksack Valley Middle School, says he’s found it challenging knowing that in-person learning is the best scenario for students and parents, but not being allowed to make it happen, all while everyone was learning “a great deal of technology in a very short period of time.”
Teachers have had to adjust lessons, units and daily plans to meet the online format, and he says they’ve been model learners during the process.
Throughout the district, staff have asked parents to help by keeping any students not feeling well or showing symptoms at home. In this new model, they can join their classroom online.
Galley, who has posted information about reopening on the high school website, reminds parents that face coverings are mandatory, and that “gaiters” are not allowed. “We are taking safety seriously,” he says, “and want to stay open.”
At the middle school, the length of the periods will be shorter than normal, so VanderYacht says students need to be prepared for a fast-paced day. Students also need to bring their Chromebook to school charged and ready, as there are times in-person learners will join students who are at home in the hybrid model for small groups and partner work.
“Many of our students have adjusted fairly quickly to the online format, and while they are in class, we may ask them to work with paper and pencil again,” VanderYacht says, “so they need to bring their school supplies on the first day of school.”
Galley cautions students that many of the social aspects they have missed with remote learning will still be restricted at some level. For example, congregating in the high school hallways is not permitted.
Katie Brown, Nooksack Elementary principal, has been running a hybrid model for the past three weeks and says it helped teach kids the routines in order to be ready to bring all students back. As they transition to four days a week in the school, students need to “continue to follow their routines with all of their peers here,” she says. “We will continue to re-teach and practice.” It has been challenging to teach the younger students how to move differently through the school and with each other.
Brown says she appreciates the teachers doing whatever it takes to provide high-quality instruction and the families and community supporting and encouraging staff.
In Sumas, principal Megan Vigre says there was a lot of work to develop new protocols for student movements and spacing, an extra challenge at the small Sumas Elementary building. "We have been very creative and it has been an incredible team effort of problem solving, reflecting and refining," she says. "I am so incredibly proud of every staff member, student and parent as we have found a way to make this work. We have even found some silver linings in all this creativity."
Vigre says there are still updates coming — check your inbox Monday — to how to accommodate the larger group of students at drop off and pick up and that students will continue to have work on Monday through either Microsoft Teams or packets sent home on Friday.
As teachers have created meaningful relationships with students in these small cohort groups, all staff hope to continue the positive moves forward in learning. "We are appreciating having our students here with us in this positive learning environment," Vigre says. "Let's keep this going!"