State of Our Schools virtual event recalls a year of at-home learning

By Meghan McLaughlin

Safety, inclusion and compassion were some of the items up for discussion at Northshore School District’s fourth annual State of Our Schools event held on Wednesday, March 10. These are typical topics to include at such an event, but the get-together this year was virtual, and what has transpired since last year’s gathering greatly impacted the school district.

Students went from staring at a whiteboard in a classroom to dealing with the glare of a screen at home. Snack time and recess were replaced with screen-free playtime to roam around the house. Social interaction dwindled and fear struck students as a pandemic raged on outside their windows. Despite the challenges, not all hope was lost for the Northshore School District.

“There was no playbook for this pandemic and no clear path to a solution,” Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid said. “We had to come together, each of us in different ways, to problem solve and meet the challenges we’ve encountered over the last year.”

With Reid presenting from the district’s newest campus, Ruby Bridges Elementary School, the program was interspersed with instrumental performances by students. Administrators expressed gratitude to students, parents, teachers and staff for their patience and adaptability in trying times that disrupted students’ learning.

“There have been silver linings—methods, tools and experiences that are noteworthy,” Reid said.

Staff members, students and parents explained what their silver linings were in pre-recorded videos shown during the program. Through an interactive online forum, viewers of the event were asked to share their silver linings that were displayed after the video segment, accompanied by a student musician.

Responses from viewers included mentions of flexibility, time spent with family, collaboration across the school district and even the lightened traffic on the road.

“We’re just so grateful that our community continues to grow, stay connected and be the Northshore we’ve come to count on,” Reid said. “Together we can do anything.”

Reid marked the school district’s resiliency by noting clubs added to the schools’ extracurricular activities roster including newspaper and women in business clubs. She also noted the uptick in graduation rates in the Northshore School District.

The program then turned back to the interactive forum and requested hopes, aspirations and dreams for students from viewers. A multitude of responses touched on approaching in-person learning with empathy, respect, growth mindset and mindfulness. Other participants hoped for an increase in anti-racist behaviors and confidence in students.

Reid detailed how the district was above national averages in the number of students attending post-secondary school. She also highlighted the district’s Department of Special Education. According to Reid, the north region of the school district has a grant and a focus on inclusionary practices. Both Ruby Bridges and Kokanee elementary schools serve as state demonstration sites for inclusive practices.

“It’s fabulous to have opportunities to lead our state in such critically important work,” Reid said.

In a conclusive call to action, the final interactive online forum asked viewers what their best idea was for the Northshore community to emerge stronger and more cohesive than ever before.

Responses centered around kindness, grace and learning from one another—all reminders of what makes a better community.

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