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In-person learning begins at BISD

After a year of schedule adjustments for students, parents and staff, the Bainbridge Island School District started in-person learning this week, a decision that received mixed reaction in the community.

On Monday, grades Pre-K, K, 1, 5 and 6 were the first students to return to school in the hybrid-learning model. Two days later, students in grades 2, 3 and 4 were back on campus. Next week, grades 7 and 8 will return, and high schoolers will be back Feb. 22.

The schools returning included Commodore Options (Odyssey, Mosaic) and Sakai Intermediate, along with Blakely, Wilkes and Ordway elementary schools. Next week, Woodward Middle School will be back , followed by Bainbridge High School.

All students in the hybrid-learning model are divided into two cohorts — one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Students will be in the classroom Monday through Thursday, and Fridays they will learn from home or remotely.

For all the planning and preparation that has gone into the decision to bring students back safely, Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen said the transition has been smooth.

“So far, things are going quite well,” he said. “I visited classrooms on Monday and was pleased to see how quickly students and teachers transitioned from online learning to in-person learning. They didn’t miss a beat. As for keeping everyone safe, all of our mitigation protocols are being implemented.”

Bang-Knudsen said attendance on the first day ranged from 90 percent to 96 percent, stating “almost all of the students expected to come to school on the first day did so.”

He said the numbers were “telling” in regard to the hesitancy of some parents and community members about in-person learning.

In terms of traffic congestion for student pickups and dropoffs, Bang-Knudsen said cars seemed to flow fairly well into schools and nearby areas. With only some students back so far, that is something he expects to ramp up over the next few weeks. Bus ridership is also expected to be much lighter than in years past due to COVID-19 concerns.

“I know our schools will continue to evaluate their arrival and dismissal processes to see if there is room for improvement,” he said. “The first few days of any ‘first day’ can get bogged down, as parents, students and staff figure out the routine.”

After talking with students and staff, Bang-Knudsen said the district has “heard a lot of positive feedback” and described the vibe of the schools as “cautiously optimistic.”

“Operating in-person learning during a pandemic adds a layer to the school day that is new for all of us,” he said. “Something as simple as recognizing teachers and classmates can be challenging when all you can see are their eyes. I heard one student say he wanted to work on learning to smile with his eyes so his teacher can know when he’s happy.”

With vaccines slowly rolling out in phases, Bang-Knudsen said BISD is collaborating with local and regional health care providers in accordance with updated guidelines from Gov. Jay Inslee and OSPI, which puts K-12 educators in Phase 1B – Tier 2 category.

Despite all the unknowns, Bang-Knudsen is happy to see that students and staff are back in school.

“It is always rewarding to see students and staff in action and working together in person. In general, we’ve had a successful first few days of in-person school.”

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Blakely 1st graders line up for dismissal after their first day of in-person learning.
Odyssey students in the hybrid learning model transitioned to in-person learning Jan. 25.

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