The Douglas County School District will launch hybrid learning this coming Monday, Feb. 8, for middle and high school students who have been learning remotely so far this semester.
During the Feb. …
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During the Feb. 2 school board meeting, Interim Superintendent Corey Wise recommended starting middle and high schools with a “Hybrid 2.0” model beginning Feb. 8.
“It's not going to be perfect. We are going to be growing. We are going to be improving,” Wise said.
But the superintendent said some in-person learning is better than none as the district grapples with how to administer education amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The new hybrid plan will offer completely “synchronous” or live learning, where students are either in the classroom or remotely patching in from home. That differs from the previous hybrid model, where students alternated between in-person learning days and independent learning days.
Wise repeated his stance that schools are safe for students during the COVID-19 pandemic and said district leaders are encouraging students to take up hybrid learning as the district transitions models.
Still, students uncomfortable with returning to hybrid can contact schools to arrange attending class remotely while other classmates in their cohorts are physically in the classroom for in-person learning days.
Jacob Hall, a member of the student advisory group and Castle View High School senior, said students drafted a survey sent to the student body earlier that afternoon, asking for their preference between full remote and hybrid learning.
The survey already generated 4,000 responses, he said. Of those early returns, 54% of students preferred staying remote, he said. The survey is open through Friday, Feb. 5.
Public comment during the meeting lasted hours. Roughly two dozen speakers voiced support for some form of in-person learning — if not 100% in-person, then hybrid instruction.
Speakers said students' mental health and opportunities for socialization are suffering greatly during remote education. While some students and educators may prefer remote, other students' grades are falling drastically, speakers said.
Student Caitlyn Clancy said students' engagement with remote education has fallen off, with some peers leaving cameras off or sleeping through classes. She asked for an option allowing 100% in-person learning.
“At what point did we lose the right to go to school?” she asked.
Not everyone agreed. Several students and teachers echoed calls made during the last school board meeting — that the district should keep secondary students in remote learning because hybrid is difficult for educators to conduct and could be less consistent.
Abygail Mayberry, a freshman at Castle View High School, said she struggled to pass classes during hybrid learning first semester. She suffered anxiety attacks as her grades fell but said remote learning this semester improved her mental health and her academic performance.
“Last semester I can't tell you how many times I couldn't sleep,” she said.
Hybrid learning could also pose a health risk before teachers can be widely vaccinated as new mutations of the virus spread in the state, proponents of remote learning said.
Student Ethan Reed submitted a letter to the board in January urging schools to stay in remote education, which was signed by students, educators and parents. The letter gathered more than 300 signatures as of Feb. 2, he said.
Community member Christa Gilstrap sent a letter to Wise and board directors on Feb. 2 urging a 100% in-person learning option, or hybrid learning as a backup, which she said garnered more than 1,000 signatures as of the time it was submitted.
School board directors voiced unanimous support for proceeding with hybrid learning during Feb. 2 discussions. Board President David Ray said comments from Tri-County Health Department Executive Director John Douglas, who spoke positively of the district's planned return to hybrid learning, helped drive his decision.
“Even though I think we've heard that hybrid is probably one of the hardest models to implement,” Ray said.
Director Elizabeth Hanson said district administration had addressed everything she wanted to see in a hybrid learning plan — synchronous learning, accommodating students who prefer remote, and addressing teachers concerns.
She also asked for community support as the district makes the transition.
“We need your tolerance and your grace for our teachers to make this succeed,” she said.
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