School Boards Develop Hybrid Plan But Classes Must Be Virtual

(Contributed Graphic)
The Orinda Union School District made hybrid schedules like this one for students who choose to attend classes partly on campus.

    Students head back to school this month, without leaving home. All classes will be taught virtually to begin the school year.
    Miramonte opens Aug. 11 followed by the elementary and middle schools Aug. 13. Monday is flex day in both districts. The big unknown is when teachers and students will meet face-to-face in the classroom.
    Based on COVID-19 allowances and restrictions as of mid-July, the Orinda Union School District (OUSD) Board of Directors initially adopted hybrid learning plans for the start of school, but all that changed when Gov. Gavin Newsom mandated Contra Costa County schools switch to distance learning.
    “We needed to proceed with imperfect information,” said Orinda Board of Trustees President Cara Hoxie.
    On July 14, the Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) Board opted to begin with distance learning.
    The OUSD distance learning plans follow hybrid models which can smoothly transition to in-class study.
    Elementary students will be placed in small Group A and B cohorts for morning classes, switching between teacher and independent learning. When Group A is receiving “essential academic instruction” from the teacher, Group B has independent work time. Afternoons allow small live groups to meet virtually and specialist time for art, music and physical education.
    Students at Orinda Intermediate School will follow the Session Cycle Model, attending teacher-led classes in the morning or afternoon, with independent work time when not in class. Placed in small cohorts, each group will be taught two subjects, four days a week, for three weeks. Then the cohort rotates to two new subjects, again taught for three weeks and finally the last rotation to fill out the six-subject curriculum.
    At the high school, full distance learning taught by Miramonte teachers begins Aug. 11. In-person learning opportunities will be phased in when allowed. County public health data and other factors will be reviewed and assessed Sept. 2 for potential transition to blended learning.
    When planning for in-class learning in the future, officials grappled with many issues, including minimum minutes of daily instruction, transportation to campuses without school buses, avoiding lunch time, how to best teach students when away from the classroom and a long list of additional health and safety issues.
    “Nothing we choose will be perfect for everyone,” said OUSD Board Vice President Liz Daoust.
    On-campus challenges include cleaning and sanitizing, moving students between classrooms, drop-off and pick-up times (more than half of Orinda Intermediate School students used the bus or County Connection last year) and child care.
    While at school, all students third grade and above must wear face coverings. Younger students are encouraged to wear them and there are protocols in place if a student develops a fever while at school.
    Opinions from teachers and parents varied during OUSD special meetings July 8 and 13. Allison Bingham, who teaches fifth grade at Glorietta Elementary, said she is concerned about ventilation.
    “Please let us teach remotely, at least for a couple of months,” she said. “I will not feel safe with 28 students in my classroom.”
    Middle-school science teacher Sue Boudreau said she loves her students, school community and colleagues, but is “appalled by the hybrid schedule.”
    She pointed out there would be no group or lab work and she would not be able to look over the shoulders of her students. “I feel it is dangerous, expensive chaos… I feel thrown to the wolves.”
    Delaying in-person teaching until mid-September was suggested by OIS parent Mark Lovell.
    Parent Chip Ferguson said there needs to be more than five minutes between classes for cleaning and sanitizing. “This really sucks… It’s a mess, he said.”
    Parent Kelly Kopelson said parents have already made “professional sacrifices” and would not choose total distance learning. She suggested camps for days off, tutors and child care centers to support students and parents.
    Parent Shoshana Chazan suggested the board concentrate on distance learning. “If the governor doesn’t want us to sit in a movie theater for 90 minutes, I don’t want my son to sit in a classroom for three hours.”

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