So far, 2020 has been a completely unpredictable year. When schools closed on March 13th, most students couldn’t have fathomed still being out of the building over eight months later. Many just thought this would be a two week event and we would be back to school in no time. But shortly and quickly, the entire world has been forced to adapt to this unprecedented crisis, including HCPSS and Marriotts Ridge.
Mustangs should be incredibly proud of how quickly and effectively they have learned to adapt to an entirely new learning situation. Students have now completed one entire virtual quarter with our 45-minute class schedule in place, and they are still itching to get back into the building. As each day passes, new plans emerge from local and national leaders on how to properly and safely continue forward with providing students with a sufficient education.
The current plan for HCPSS is to have students remain in exclusively virtual learning until semester two, when a new hybrid model will take effect. Students and staff responded to multiple surveys from the Board of Ed, asking whether students would like to return to in-person learning. The majority of staff and students agreed, thinking that the hybrid model would reflect a similar pre-COVID school day. However, the currently proposed model would greatly differ from a regular schedule.
The most recently proposed model would have small numbers of students in the building from 7:45 am until 2:30pm with 90 minute class periods. Students at home would follow the same schedule, however, they would be remote. There will be certain groups of students in the building on Mondays and Tuesdays as well as a Thursday and Friday group. This will leave for Wednesday to remain as asynchronous and give an opportunity for the school to have a deep clean before the next group enters the building the following day. Even though some students would be at home and some would be in person, they will all be doing the same work and receiving the same direction from the teachers.
In the event that there are staff and students in the building at the start of the second semester, this will be a semester like no other. Everyone will be highly encouraged to social distance in every possible way, as well as maintain strict mask enforcement while on school grounds. The idea is that, with this new hybrid model, students who find it hard to concentrate in a virtual classroom will have the ability to receive a bit more attention and focus. Teachers and students will hopefully be able to form much stronger relationships and bonds now that they would be in person and not separated by miles and a video screen. These new added relationships within the school system will help for a smoother transition into a post-covid world, whenever that may be.
However, despite the few positives that the hybrid model presents, it is likely not the best option for students. Every student wants to return to school, but not like this. The school day will feel entirely different, even down to the core of classroom learning. All students will be at socially distanced desks, working solely on a laptop, for ninety-minute increments. It is common knowledge that extensive lengths of time on technology can worsen mental health, which is exactly what may happen under this proposed hybrid model since students will be facing a computer screen for at least six hours each day,
In addition, according to an HCPSS poll, the school system will lose about 30% of all teachers and staff if the hybrid model is implemented. In such complicated times, it’s not in students’ best interest to lose teachers and change students’ adapted routines when “regular” school still couldn’t commence. The Board of Education will vote on the hybrid model on Thursday, November 19th and will be taking email input from students until that date. More information can be found at hcpss.org/board.