At the start of the 2020-21 school year, when the pandemic and county regulations forced Lynden Schools to start the year in a distance learning scenario, the district quickly pivoted and created multi-tiered learning options for students. Families could select distance learning through Lynden teachers, dubbed Option 1, until a return to in-person learning was possible; an online program, dubbed Option 3; or a Lynden-supported at-home learning scenario, Option 2 Home Connect.
In the Option 2 situation, Ellie Meenk, Lynden Academy principal, says teachers worked with individual families to craft a personalized homeschool experience, providing them with needed curriculum specialized with a student’s needs, grade level and academic interest. “We have a big library and we were able to get them a good homeschooling experience,” Meenk says.
Lynden Schools staff backed the parents with certificated teachers checking in on them at least weekly to support both students and parents, giving families a resource at the ready.
“The school district wanted to have lots of options for families and I think this was something unique to the Lynden Schools,” Meenk says. “Option 2 was a natural fit for Lynden Academy (to administer).”
At the height of the Option 2 Home Connect usage during the first semester roughly 150 students were enrolled, mostly K-5 students. There are also more than 500 students a part of the Lynden Academy program, a sperate school within Lynden Schools that caters to families who want to homeschool part-time.
“We are serving people where they are at,” Meenk says. “It is something new and not for everyone. We get that, but this is a natural fit for some families.” She says that as Lynden Schools starts to plan for next year, she’d like to offer a similar option in the future. She also expects that families currently enrolled in Option 2 Home Connect will be drawn back to their neighborhood school or participate with Lynden Academy.
With Lynden Academy a hybrid option of in-school learning K-12 and at-home learning, Meenk says they’ve seen continued growth in the program. “This is a nice way to do (homeschooling),” she says, “and still have support.”