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Creating learning communities, positive relationships

by TOM ALBERTSON Contributing Writer
| March 31, 2021 1:00 AM

Lake Pend Oreille School District takes pride in creating learning communities built on positive relationships, preparing students for future success, and providing a variety of educational opportunities available for students.

How does a school district do this during a pandemic? This was the challenge for the end of last school year and the 2020-21 school year? Though closing school on March 17th, 2020 and moving to a remote learning model for the remainder of the year was difficult, developing a reopening plan during a pandemic was even more challenging. One of the biggest challenges for LPOSD was deciding what school operations looks like during a pandemic, which was unprecedented and with no blueprint. LPOSD's plan to reopen schools was based on collaboration with Superintendents statewide, surveys sent to LPOSD staff and parents, and a close working relationship with the teacher’s association. Through this collective process three priorities were developed:

• Safety of students and staff

• Maximize the instructional time with a teacher using the PHD guidelines

• Provide educational choice to families

The LPOSD school schedule was developed to give students access to their teacher face-to-face five days a week, reduce class size, cohort students to reduce contacts, and also allow families to learn remotely through IDLA or the teachers learning management system (LMS). To accomplish the flexibility for families we did concentrate the instructional minutes into a shorter day allowing teachers time to interact with remote students in the afternoon. I am proud that we have not changed this instructional schedule throughout the school year allowing for consistency for students and family. Adjustments to the plan were more centered on guidelines when self-isolating and quarantining were necessary.

Having the vaccine for our staff has brought some sense of relief but we are still cautious, watching data closely. We will continue to measure student growth and translate this growth towards reaching grade level proficiency for each student. We know there are and will continue to be “learning gaps” due to disruptions to student’s education from last Springs closure, isolation/quarantine days, and students who may have chosen to remote learn for long periods of time.

We are currently in the pre-registration process for next year, being hopeful in planning for a full school day with limited interruptions. We are also excited to offer optional all-day kindergarten at no cost to families. I am especially grateful for all our employees who had to make major adjustments to help keep schools open. This includes the transportation department, foodservice, maintenance, district office staff, the technology department, administrators, and building teaching/support staff. This has been a big challenge for everyone involved at LPOSD. In closing, I am equally thankful for the partnership with parents and community members as we make our way through these times.

Tom Albertson is superintendent of the Lake Pend Oreille School District.