Thursday, September 28, 2023

Area schools welcome students back to class

Staff Writer | September 6, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Teachers and students in Bonner County hit the ground running for their first day of school Tuesday.

Many kindergarten students in the county experienced their first, first day of school ever, including a group of children in Kyla French’s classroom at Farmin Stidwell Elementary School.

A teacher with Lake Pend Oreille School District for 13 years, French said she is excited to welcome back another classroom of kids happy to learn and ready to try new activities.

“So much of their day is just learning the routine and learning how to be a part of the group,” French said. “They are so eager — that’s the best part about this age.”

For some schools, including Farmin Stidwell, the school year also marks the first year since COVID-19 pandemic that parents have been welcomed back into school halls for the “back to school experience.” Parents haven’t been able to walk their children into class for the past three years, LPOSD officials said.

“We’ve gotten away from inviting families into our schools because of COVID restrictions, Betsy Dalessio, Farmin Stidwell principal said, said. “Families have gotten used to dropping their kids off at the door and waving goodbye. Today we had a police officer at the front door welcoming families in ... It was a great way to start the day — with families everywhere.”

For students at Farmin Stidwell, their first day was spent learning school expectations, drills and getting acquainted with their classrooms, Dalessio said. The school is also offering a new Outdoor Education program as a special for all students.

“Tim Kerrigan is leading the program, and we are thrilled to give students an opportunity to get outside more,” Dalessio said.

This year, new arrangements have been made for the school’s counseling accommodations as well.

“Our school counselor this year has her own classroom with a nice space for kids and a sensory setup,” she said. “So kids needing extra sensory support can come in, and we have a swing, kids chairs, and sensory tools — a nice, calming area.”

Over on the county’s west side, Branden Durst, superintendent of the West Bonner County School District, said schools in the district had a successful first day.

“Attendance was strong, and the students seemed to do well, so we’re excited for this school year,” Durst said.

This year, WBCSD is working toward offering additional dual credit and career technical education opportunities to students.

“We might become the first school district that we are aware of in North Idaho that will offer a college level statistics class inside the district,” Durst said.

LPOSD officials also reported a successful first day that is likely to turn into a successful year.

“The first day of school was full of excitement, Andra Murray, LPOSD director of elementary education, said. “Teachers and staff were focused on getting to know students, and creating new connections.”

LPOSD Superintendent Dr. Becky Meyer, said that by the end of the week she expects to see every student in the district.

“I always spend the first week of school visiting each and every classroom, so I was able to see the happy faces firsthand,” Meyer said. “Our staff were happy to have students back in the building and we look forward to a year full of student, staff, and community connections.”

Kristin Hawkins, community relations liaison for LPOSD, highlighted Meyer’s mission for the school year.

“This year, we are working cohesively to engage every student, every day. We are committed to maintaining positive, safe and supportive schools, and look forward to helping students grow throughout the 2023-24 school year.”

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