Hybrid Key Debate at Board Meeting


Ashley Xu

Should We Go Hybrid?

Members of the Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) Governing Board met to discuss the transition to in-person learning and shared the results of surveys regarding teachers’ and students’ intent to return to school on October 21.

Contra Costa County’s move to, and 14-day streak in, the red tier (“substantial” community spread of COVID-19) in the California Blueprint for a Safer Economy plan mean that K-12 schools can resume indoor classes. Current health guidelines only allow for this to be done in a hybrid model.

At the meeting, the Board reaffirmed its decision to reopen schools in January 2021.

Associate Superintendent Aida Glimme shared the results of the teacher and parent surveys, collected from October 14 to October 19. 78.29% of parents want to move to in-person hybrid instruction, while 21.71% indicated a preference for the distance learning model.

According to Glimme, there were many parent comments specifically about bringing freshmen and seniors back to campus. For freshmen, the feedback indicates that they are “not having made a connection to our schedule, our teachers, our campus, their schools, and feeling really disconnected,” said Glimme. “On the other side, our Grade 12 students really reported a lot more missing out on those senior activities and those end-of-high-school experiences that traditionally high schoolers go through, which they also missed out at the end of junior year.”

Regarding the timing of the hybrid model implementation, parent opinions were split fairly evenly among “As Soon as Possible,” January 5, 2021 (the 1st day after Winter Break), and January 19, 2021 (2 weeks after Winter Break, which takes into consideration holiday travel).

88% of teachers indicated that they would return to a hybrid model. The remaining percentage of teachers have medical restrictions (5%), would go on COVID-19 leave (4%), or would retire or resign (3%). 11.42% of teachers voted for “As Soon as Possible,” while 26.25% and 62.32% said January 5, 2021 and January 19, 2021, respectively, were their preferred dates.

1 consideration for the Board is how to minimize disruptions in learning. While Superintendent Dr. John Nickerson noted that schools could remain open even if the county moves back to the purple (“widespread”) tier, the master schedule must be revised when the hybrid model is implemented because of staffing considerations.

The current hybrid model schedule, developed in June 2020, has 2 student cohorts assigned alphabetically by last name. While 1 student cohort attends in-person classes, the other cohort will participate in asynchronous learning. Mondays will be asynchronous, similar to the current distance learning model.

However, staff will begin revising the schedule immediately, taking into consideration concerns about reduced class time in the hybrid model, the current distance learning experience, and updated California legal requirements about required minutes of instruction. In addition, staff will determine the best course of action for students who opt to continue with distance learning.

The redesigned hybrid and distance learning models will be presented at the Board meeting on November 18, after which parents and students will have to finalize their commitments, said Glimme.

Until then, there will be more in-person small group opportunities for academic support, social-emotional support, co-curricular meetings (i.e. music, drama, journalism, and auto-shop), extracurricular meetings (i.e. clubs), and social peer events (i.e. class lunches) on campus.

“Campolindo staff and administration are preparing to bring groups of students on campus for academic support, as cases in the country continue to go down. Many people are looking forward to face-time with teachers, which we lack over Zoom,” said Campolindo student representative senior Maggie Buckley.

Staff will also continue working to improve the distance learning model. According to Glimme, while more parents reported that their students are receiving an “appropriate amount” of work, there are still concerns about Canvas, assignment deadlines and flexibility, and Zoom fatigue.

“We’ve seen over Zoom the depression, stress, and disengagement that our students have been facing, especially our freshmen who have never had in-person contact at the high school,” said President of the Acalanes Education Association Lori Tewksbury. However, Tewksbury added that “academically our distance model is superior to the hybrid model. We also really wonder about the social and emotional of kids from teachers behind plexiglass and wearing masks and face shields, and about if students will feel coming back to campus with large amounts of people.”

Results of the surveys and the Board’s meeting presentation can be found here.