Back to school, same but different for Langdon Area School

Now that school has been in session for a few weeks, we checked in to see how everything is going. The students are excited to be back in the building with their classmates, friends, and the staff. The teachers and all the staff have worked hard - above and beyond - to welcome the students back to classes. That’s the “same” part.

The “different” is, of course, obvious. Safety measures were put in place to provide safe and protective in-person education.

“Overall the state guidelines were broad and allowed for us to really develop plans that were the most beneficial to our district and students,” Langdon Area High School Principal Ethen Askvig said. “Our local education cooperative, Northeast Education Services Cooperative (NESC), and other professional organizations in the state really helped with templates, plan development, and ideas. These helped our local staff members, teachers, board members, parents, county health and community members that were part of our Return to School Committees develop the district's plan. Teacher and staff input was vital in putting together the new safety measures in the district’s plan, and I have no doubt all of our staff will continue to grow more comfortable and collaborate to make this year the best we can.”

Askvig is pleased with the start of the school year. They have found areas that need improvement but believe they are moving in the right direction. He said that day to day, they are getting into a good routine, and with the enormous amount of changes, the staff and students have really stepped up and had an excellent attitude.

The students have been adapting to the new measures well. Askvig credits the positive attitude of the staff, the hard work of the Return to School Committees, and the continual education on the rationale behind the safety measures.

“The new normal is something [the students] have shown to be willing to accept in order to keep each other safe and have the in-person education,” said Askvig.

They have had hiccups along the way. New issues arise each day that require adjustments to the plan and the way they function. Everything from lunch schedules to student movement and technology have been adjusted.

At the time of this writing, there were not any classes quarantined in the high school or middle school. In the event of a quarantine there would be the initial contacting of those affected, cleaning, and moving those affected to all online learning. There are a small number of students that have chosen to do online learning this year, and the school has developed the technology platform to accomplish that, but a change to an entire class will affect teacher plans and opportunities for students.

“I have no doubt our students and staff will be able to adjust, but until you are put into it fully, you can’t predict all of the needs with our new plans,” Askvig shared. “A large thank you needs to go out to our students, staff, county health department and the community as a whole. We have seen so many individuals put in extra hours, brainstorm ways to solve the difficult problems and work to allow us to have in-person education. Without the many extra hours put in by the teachers and additional staff members we would not have had the initial success that we have seen.”

Langdon Area Elementary School Principal Todd Hetler echoed those thoughts, “The teachers have been amazing. We are truly a team. We are able to collaborate together to solve issues as they arise.”

Hetler also commented that the state really trusted the district to come up with a plan locally and that Cavalier County Health has been very instrumental and supportive to keep them informed and to bounce ideas off of.

“We have tried different things during lunch, recess, and in the classrooms to enhance social distancing,” Hetler said. “For example, teachers are continually adjusting the layout of their rooms in order to socially distance while also ensuring each child is succeeding in the classroom. We have gone back and forth with trying different types of dividers and barriers in the classrooms and lunchroom. We went from having most of our students eating lunch and breakfast in the lunchroom to almost all of the students having meals in their individual classrooms.”

The elementary students have embraced the social distancing and mask guidelines. Each student understands that the guidelines are necessary right now to keep everyone in school.

Most of the students in only two classes have been quarantined so far this year. It has been challenging to ensure each child has a computer at home in order to continue learning.

“Our technology coordinator has done a fantastic job getting devices ready and getting them into student hands,” shared Hetler. “Our strategy in the elementary school is to separate the individual classes of students to minimize the spread of the virus. We are transitioning to implementing and fine-tuning our schoolwide initiatives to ensure each child is successful socially and academically.”

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