Our district decided to start the school year completely virtual. There were a few options on the table, including completely in-person as well as hybrid. The district sent out a survey over the summer and voted on a plan. All students across elementary, middle, and high school would take virtual instruction and the School Board would reassess the situation every three weeks.
It’s been six weeks since school started and the board has voted once again. Back on the table were completely in-person as well a modified hybrid models. This summer we were in favor of the original hybrid model which was two days in and three days virtual. The new hybrid model is a bit different – it’s five half days. Instead of having half the children in on Monday/Tuesday, half in on Wednesday/Thursday, and everyone virtual on Friday; it’s half the students during the morning and the other half in the afternoon five days per week.
The school board chose the modified hybrid option despite nearly every citizen at the recent board meeting saying that they didn’t favor it. There have been people on both sides of the in-person vs virtual debate since the beginning of the year. None felt this new hybrid option was any good. The board voted to go forward with a 6-1 vote.
Luckily every family has been given a choice. We do not have to send our children back to school for half days. Virtual is still an option, and the district is giving us three distinct choices:
- Continue all-virtual learning
- In this case, students will mostly keep the current schedule they have and the same blend of assisted and independent learning. They will be online all day and interact with their teachers as they do today. The biggest disadvantage is that their teachers may change based on how many families select other options.
- Go to school in person
- Students will attend class five days a week at school either in the morning or the afternoon. The school chooses who is in the morning or afternoon sessions. Students will have face-to-face time with their teachers for about 2.5 hours and will have independent work for the other half of the day. There will be no teacher support during the time they are not in school. Busses are available but the school can’t guarantee that the capacity of the busses can be reduced. Teachers may also change for students based on who selects what.
- Follow their teacher
- This option is designed to maintain the relationship that students have built with their teachers so far. The district has stated that it won’t ask teachers to provide both in-person and active remote learning. This means that certain teachers will be dedicated to remote learning while others are dedicated to in-person. This option allows students to follow their teachers and will dictate whether they are in-person or remote based on what their teachers are assigned.
That’s the summary. We’ve chosen to stay remote because it works best for us. I think in-person will work better for other families so I’m happy that we have a choice. Our choice was based primarily on what works best for the boys followed by what works best for our schedules. Despite some initial bumps, the boys have been doing extremely well with remote learning. They are engaged in class, enjoy seeing their friends, are completing their work (with a bit of parental management), and seem genuinely happy. In fact, they told us last week that they preferred parts of it to in person learning because they could have quiet time to focus. They’ve certainly had struggles with technology but they are now getting really really good at it and it’s manageable.
We also feel that the boys do better with a solid routine and all-day support. The hybrid model would leave them without any support when they are not in school. Without having a teacher to talk to they would flounder. It would be very similar to last spring and that just did not work for us at all. We understand that they may get new teachers, but we feel it will be less disruptive than changing their schedule, especially since it could get upended once cold season starts.
Virtual also works much better for our schedules. While we are extremely fortunate to have flexible schedules and be able to work from home, it would be challenging to drop them off for 2.5 hours and then pick them up every day. We could move our schedules around but we’d have to make it up later. We are lucky to be able to do that. I’m not sure how anyone without a flexible schedule will be able to handle half days, but that’s why we all have a choice.
The district sent out a survey that was due last Friday; by mid-week, only 25% of our school had responded. New assignments go out November 9th, so we’ll find out whether the boys get to keep their teachers then. I don’t think we’ll be back to school in person this year unless it’s mandated. Looking forward to next school season when we can put all of this behind us.