LSHS students weigh in on policy change

Students sat down with Dr. Collins and discussed existing and future district policies


Nathaly Fallas

Feedback: Left to right- seniors Abby Ray, Lauren Ruble, Dr. Monica Meadows, Dr. Ken Collins, senior Ethan Maples. Students spent their fourth period on Jan. 19 discussing topics like attendance and inclusivity.

The Lake Stevens School District began using student feedback in future decisions starting in 2019. Student viewpoints at both the school and district level are being taken into consideration for new policies being enacted, as well as older policies that are being modified. Students have been given the opportunity to voice their opinions in biannual Panorama surveys which are used to gain a general understanding of students, as well as through Student Advisory Council members and direct conversations similar to those held by Superintendent Ken Collins in mid-January. 

Student involvement in district policies is not a new concept for Washington schools though it’s a new practice for the Lake Stevens School District. In the fall of 2019, Lake Stevens High School students received their first Panorama survey marking the beginning of the district’s “Foundation for Excellence” blueprint modifications, which are ongoing. 

“You’re the most important people in this district,” Collins said, addressing the room of students. 

He explained further that student feedback is crucial when making or modifying any policies because they are who will be directly impacted by them. 

On Jan. 9, some students were given the opportunity for a more in-depth discussion with Dr. Monica Meadows, the Director for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Principal Leslie Ivelia, Collins, who became Lake Stevens’ superintendent in 2021 following 18 years in the district as both a principal and teacher and led Thursday’s conversation.

The discussion began with students voicing what they enjoy and appreciate at LSHS and what was going well. Several students voiced that they felt like the high school had a sense of community and that equality is an important aspect of the school’s culture. Some pointed out it may not have always been like this though. 

“This year it feels like a complete school, in the sense of people putting each other’s differences aside. Everyone comes together to have a good time,” senior Ethan Maples said. 

Additionally, the school has, “such a level of spirit… it’s incredible,” senior Nathaly Fallas said, sharing the same sentiment. 

Students weighed in on certain district and school-level decisions, like attendance (along with its relation to academic success) and personal pathway classes like photography being cut from the high school. 

“When I tried to get into an art class, I wasn’t able to due to there only being two classes [that fill up quickly as a consequence]. I’m not sure why there are only two art classrooms after the school’s large expansion,” senior Lauren Ruble said. 

Ruble shared disappointment in the school’s lack of expansion of the arts programs. 

Students provided feedback on school policy regarding attendance, specifically on the way it affects academic progress, questioning if the policies are realistic. Students explained that after distance learning and with so much work done on distinct-provided Chromebooks now, student attendance does have a direct correlation with academic success as teachers emphasize. 

Once students were back on campus full-time, LSHS began issuing detention and suspension in extreme cases for repeated tardiness and unexcused absences. Students who accumulate so many absences or tardies received notes summoning them for detention either during their lunch or after school where they were expected to work on presumed missing assignments. 

One senior, who wished to remain anonymous, said that after returning to campus after having health issues, they felt like they were, “Being punished for coming to school.” 

“We never want students to feel punished for coming to school when they could have chosen to stay home,” Ivelia said, as well as explaining further that students should always feel welcome on campus, regardless of how often that may be. 

Additionally, she noted that this policy has become more relaxed since it was first enacted and that communication with the Attendance Office is key in avoiding receiving unnecessary discipline.

Despite being behind surrounding districts, it appears that the future will be full of communication with students in the Lake Stevens School District. After his visit with LSHS students, Collins also visited every other school in the district, gaining a broader idea of student ideas from different age groups. Groups in place such as the Student Advisory Council (SACo), along with the administration’s willingness to listen to any student willing to share their thoughts prove that change is happening.