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Simle Middle School in Bismarck returns to full-time, face-to-face instruction


It’s been almost a year since students had regular face-to-face class and some of the students have new classmates they’ve never even met.

In the year of the pandemic, at least one thing is helping students feel things are a little back to normal — and Simle Middle School students couldn’t be more excited.

“I get to see some of my closer friends again and I get to help my education more too,” said Brlynn Felchle, seventh-grader.

“Probably seeing my friends and getting a sense to going back to normal. And it being kind of normal since this COVID stuff,” said Trenten Stafslin, seventh-grader.

Principal Russ Riehl says while hybrid learning was working, it just wasn’t the same, and with few COVID cases, now was the time to bring students back.

“You have the academic side. You know, kids learn better in school. They learn better with those teachers that they have relationships with, that they have trust with,” said Riehl.

Riehl says kids are willing to follow any safety measures necessary to be back in class.

“It’s a little bit uncomfortable knowing that we should keep them on since it’s COVID but I think we can deal with it,” explained Stafslin.

“It’s hard to remember to bring my mask every day but it’s still something I am able to deal with. And it’s just going to help stop COVID and whatnot,” explained Felchle.

Teachers have also made changes, like sanitizing between classes and keeping the same students in the same groups.

“The switch from hybrid having maybe 18 at a time to full face-to-face, having 30 at a time, means that we’re not social distancing like we were. But we’re maintaining the masks and we’re keeping track of which students are where. So we’re aware of, you know, if somebody does come back positive, we know who they’ve been in contact with,” explained Ryan Townsend, life science teacher.

The school has also made changes to how and where classes are held.

“Singing through a mask is more challenging than it is without a mask. So what did we do with that? Well, we have our choir classes in our auditorium. So our auditorium is now a classroom so kids can social distance,” explained Riehl.

Principal Riehl says the majority of students have returned to school for face-to-face learning and only 8 percent of students are continuing to learn remotely.

Riehl says for contact tracing reasons the students have assigned seating just in case someone does test positive.

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