Volunteers placed 800 lights on the atheltic field at North Whidbey Middle School Friday night in an effort to connect with the community while students stay home because of COVID-19. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Volunteers placed 800 lights on the atheltic field at North Whidbey Middle School Friday night in an effort to connect with the community while students stay home because of COVID-19. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Seeing the light: Volunteers aim to unite community

North Whidbey Middle School PTA set up 800 lights - one for each student.

Nearly 1,000 luminaries lit up the field at North Whidbey Middle School Friday night as a way to try to connect students with the community.

The 800 lights were up for three hours on the athletic field as cars zoomed by on State Highway 20. Volunteers laid out strings of lights, which were covered by white paper bags, and built a sign facing the highway that said: “Bright minds, 800 strong.”

Each light represented one of the school’s seventh- or eighth-grade students.

Allison Paul, mother of a current seventh grader and school PTA president, said the luminaries were part of an effort to help students feel more connected to the school.

“We were trying to think up ways to bring the community together when we can’t physically be together and to show what our student body looks like,” Paul said.

Some of the new seventh graders haven’t gone to classes in the school building yet, she said, because students have not yet been allowed to return per the district’s phased reopening plan.

Middle school students will be allowed to return to school on alternating days when the Oak Harbor School District is in the fourth phase of its reopening plan. The district is currently in the second phase of the plan, which allows preschool through fourth grade students to go to in-person classes part of the week, while older students do lessons at home.

“A lot of families are struggling with having to support their students’ learning from a distance, but I think all of us are impacted by this and we need more positivity. We’re just trying to bring the community together,” she said.

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