The Diverse Learning Pathways at Lake Pend Oreille School District

learning pathways lake pend oreille school district


“In order to do our best for kids and families, we must have clearly articulated paths both for college and for career opportunities. It’s a little-known fact that we have a really strong program on both sides of the house, and we work hard to encourage students to take classes from both sides.”- Shawn Woodward, Lake Pend Oreille School District Superintendent 2012 to 2019

Upon arriving at the school district in 2012, Shawn Woodward led an exploration with teachers, administrators, and community members to set a strategic vision for the school district. During this period, he observed there were many options for students, but they weren’t public school options. When we see people paying tuition for private schools on top of the taxes they already pay for the public school system, we really need to ask ourselves, ”What are we missing?”

During his seven-year tenure at the school district, Woodward and the team at LPOSD implemented a variety of programs to ensure we meet students and their families where their needs are.


Teen suicide, bullying and the day to day pressures on young adults are issues the district continually battles. A component of education often taken for granted, we strongly believe social-emotional learning should be taught systematically just like math and reading. Various programs help students to handle what’s happening in their worlds now and in their future.

A few initiatives at the elementary level:

Parents are hesitant to enter mental health clinics with their children. Now, LPOSD is the first district in Idaho to have school-based mental health clinics that serve as a conduit between families and mental health providers.

The district purchased (with the help of PAFE funding) an elementary curriculum called Second Steps to teach children how to understand and manage their emotions, control their reactions, and be aware of others’ feelings.

Trust-based Relational Intervention (TRBI) Frequently, when a child acts out, he or she is labeled as a behavior problem which leads to punishment. In reality, these young students need people to help and support them. Under the leadership of Principal Kelli Knowles, children victimized by physical or mental trauma get the help they need to stay in school and thrive.

Sandpoint High School:

The safety net program, led by Erin Roos, helps students cope with today’s pressures by way of student and teacher mentors. 

The Sources of Strength curriculum gives high school students the skills to recognize and understand their feelings, think through their emotions before they react, and be mindful of their actions.

When we place an emphasis on social-emotional learning, students behave and perform better in school. It’s an investment in our students, who are better able to cope with life’s problems and perform in rigorous academic courses.


A pilot experiential learning program at the Farmin Stidwell School began with 25 students in grades K-6. Four years later, the program has doubled in size and continues to expand. 

For example, under the leadership of Nicole Huguenin and with the help of PAFE grants, the team has created a makers’ space environment that enables students to learn by doing. Students practice design thinking: Empathize, identify a problem, brainstorm the solution, prototype and test. This different way of teaching keeps kids focused, engaged and on task.

Experiential learning has enabled students to experience success in the classroom – many for the first time. It also helped our district reduce over-qualifying kids for special services. Students who were previously labeled learning disabled (LD) were now understood to learn differently and were given a new path to achieve success.


LPOSD has found it beneficial to provide a link between home school families and the school district. In doing so, we provide academic learning tools and fill in gaps students might not get at home, such as socialization. Students study English Language Arts, math, art, science, culinary arts, and the environment.   

In five years, the Home School Academy has grown from 15 to 150 students, and we expect there to be 200 students by 2020. 

Other secondary education options

  • Lake Pend Oreille Alternative High School helps at-risk students to receive their diplomas and prepare for their next step in life.
  • Sandpoint High School. The depth and breadth of the career and technical education (CTE) courses offered often blows people’s minds. You can see that here

  • Alternatively, the 10 courses offered through the school’s Advanced Placement Program (AP) prepares students for college and gives them the opportunity to get advanced credit and save money. Learn more here.

Offer robust paths toward both college and trades

  • Mastery-based learning at Clark Fork, where students spend a portion of their day in an experiential learning setting and other portions in work-based learning paired with local businesses. The population at Clark Fork Jr/Sr High school has grown dramatically since it started.
  • LPOSD works with the Bonner County business community to identify apprenticeships, internships, and work-based learning for students.


LPOSD is committed to ensuring that school is an equalizer for all kids. This translates to many accolades. For instance, we’ve been recognized for being on the AP Honor Roll and U.S. News & World Report ranked Sandpoint High School in the top 20 percent high schools in Idaho and top third in the U.S.

But there is always room for improvement.

“I have worked in a lot of school districts over the past 27 years,” said Woodward, “but never with a group of people more willing to roll their sleeves up and do better. There’s a ‘continuous improvement’ mindset at LPOSD. He applauds the high support environment for staff, where the culture, climate, and morale are just as important as grad rates and student achievement rates.

Photo credit: Joe Mabel,  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic