Increase Access to In Person Learning instead of Full Hybrid
This morning I received an email from the administration at my child’s school laying out some of the initial details about what will happen in October when the district moves forward with their arbitrary decision to switch to hybrid learning. It indicates:
Some details of the hybrid model include:
- Students will attend school in person for two days each week
- Group A will attend school on Mondays and Thursdays
- Group B will attend school on Tuesdays and Fridays
- Wednesdays will maintain a similar schedule to our current remote Wednesdays (including live instruction)
- Students’ two at-home days (not Wednesdays) will focus on independent work to reinforce their in-person instruction
- Siblings in the district will be placed in the same group (A or B) unless you noted otherwise in the survey. We cannot promise the specific A or B group though. This will be dependent on total numbers.
- Your child’s teacher may change if that teacher is not able to return to the building
- If a student becomes uncomfortable with attending school in person, we will do our best to change their learning to the remote model as soon as we can
- If a student cannot follow all district safety protocols after re-teaching attempts by our staff, they will need to return to remote learning
If you decide to continue with remote learning:
- Your child’s schedule will remain very similar to their current schedule
- Your child’s teacher will most likely change, as most teachers will be teaching in the hybrid model
- It is highly likely that you would not be able to change your child from remote to hybrid learning until the beginning of January
There are so many problems with this. I strongly encourage the board to reconsider their current course of action, and I hope you will all join me in expressing your concerns to them as well. You can find contact information for the board members on the SAU8 website.
Instead of a district wide change to hybrid, we must expand the availability for students to attend in-person learning in a controlled and measured fashion. In-person learning has already begun for certain student populations, including those who require in-person interventions, such as students on IEPs or ELLs. We should now expand that to include students in families that are not able to support an effective learning environment in their homes. This will minimize the risk of exposure to students and teachers who must be present in-person. It will reduce the number of students who are placed into different classrooms. It will maintain equal time across the entire community for interactive learning with a teacher. It will limit the number of teaching models that must be supported simultaneously.
A controlled increase on a priority basis to in-person learning is equitable, fair, safe, and provides a roadmap for a return to full in-person learning for all students and families; and minimizes the harm and risk to our community.
For our Families
The current plan to switch to hybrid disproportionately favors families of privilege. Families that are able to choose which model works for them are by definition families with privilege. These families can make the choice to continue in remote learning, knowing that their children will receive 4.5 days of interactive teaching compared to the 2.5 days being offered to hybrid learners. These families can make the choice to send their children to school so their kids can see their friends, knowing they have the option to pull their kids back out when they perceive the risk to increase. They have all the benefits of choice, balance, and safety.
What about the families that can not make that choice? Families without access to flexible work hours, paid time off, or that have to work multiple jobs to support their children; families that can not afford to paid-access to public school at the “remote learning centers”; families that do not have a spare bedroom for each child to have a quiet place to effectively learn? Disproportionately students in our marginalized communities: families of color, New American families, low income families: their students are being short-changed by design. These students will get about half the face-to-face time as students in privileged families. These students will be placed at increased risk of exposure (we can argue over statistics, but even a small increase is an increase). It is known that these communities are more likely to not only contract the virus, but also to suffer its worst effects with increased risk of mortality.
This is neither equal nor equitable.
For our Teachers
After switching to hybrid learning, our staff will have to support three separate models of learning, which include:
- Full in-person teaching for students in the vulnerable populations that began in this model at the beginning of the year
- Hybrid teaching for students who will be returning in October
- Full remote teaching for students whose families are able to continue to support their children in the safety and comfort of their own homes.
It is impossible to think that the district has the staffing resources available to operate effectively in this mode. It’s almost as if they have no insight at all into the incredibly difficult jobs our teachers have.
We have no insight into the numbers, either. How many teachers will be continuing in remote learning, per grade? What will happen to staffing numbers if teachers are exposed and can no longer return to the building? Will we have temporary or substitute staff moving between schools to fill staff absences? Have they sufficiently planned for the increase in sick leave that is certain to occur during a pandemic? How will student teacher ratios be affected? The board has previously stated that as many as 25% of the students will choose full remote learning, and yet it is implied that most teachers will be teaching in hybrid. If there are only a small number of remote teachers but a large number of remote learners, will the student-teacher ratio for each class remain the same, or will the teacher’s supporting remote learning suddenly see their class sizes double?
Our teachers have as little information as we do — and yet parents will continue to hold them to the highest expectations which will become increasingly difficult to maintain.