Local school districts are allowing parents to send their students back to school with new COVID-19 hybrid guidelines. Students may also continue doing fully remote learning if their parents don’t feel safe about returning to school.
The hybrid learning model that local school districts are transitioning to will look noticeably different than traditional learning as it still incorporates online activity. Many school routines, including student interactions in the classroom, busses full of children, and the chatter of the lunchroom has changed to make schools safer for staff and students.
The Sumner-Bonney Lake School District and Puyallup School District are implementing an A/B model for in-person hybrid learning. With the model, students are split into two groups, with group A in-person on Tuesdays and Thursdays while group B is on campus Wednesdays and Fridays. On the days that students aren’t at school, they will be taught asynchronously at home.
This model, following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Washington State Department of Health, reduces the number of students in classrooms and how students and teachers work together.
“Students won’t be able to work in groups or get within six feet of one another and they all have to face the front of the classroom,” said Jennifer Black, Sumner Education Association president and teacher at Bonney Lake High School. “Teachers can’t roam the classroom to check on student progress like we would normally do.”
Classroom interactions, and other school routines, are considered before districts decide to reopen schools.
Washington state school districts decide to have students attend in-person based on the statistics of COVID-19 cases in their area. The risks and benefits of hybrid schooling and other areas of the school day such as transportation, lunch and extracurricular activities are heavily evaluated before a decision is made.
At Sumner-Bonney Lake Schools, bus drivers and students are required to wear face coverings and maintain social distance as much as possible while on the bus. State guidelines allow more than one student per seat if necessary.
“Since it’s going to be only half the kids at a time, even though they may have to squeeze a few kids in there, the good news is that the still should be extra room on the busses,” said Michael Herbert, a writing support paraeducator at Lakeridge and Mountainview Middle School.
At lunchtime students should sit with their socially distant class or group and keep distance between students in other groups, according to the Employer Health and Safety Requirements for School Scenarios, created by the DOH, Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
Mealtimes are staggered in the cafeteria where students receive their pre-packaged food. Lunchroom staff serves food and utensils and disinfects tables before and after use to reduce the spread of germs.
Procedures have also been added to other common school activities, including recess, clubs, and sports.
Sumner-Bonney Lake primary schools have implemented a program called Playworks to keep kids socially distanced during recess. Face coverings aren’t required at recess. According to Black, Sumner-Bonney Lake clubs have shifted their activities and meetings online to safely continue offering social spaces for club members.
The DOH has approved fall sports to begin on Feb. 8 at all three Puyallup High Schools. Spring sports will begin March 22 and winter sports May 3, though the dates are still subject to change. High-risk indoor sports, including boys and girls water polo and gymnastics, are delayed until the latest season to allow more time for COVID-19 conditions to improve.
According to Chris Turner, principal at Bonney Lake High School, about 75% of students have opted into in-person learning. There will be even fewer students on campus as the hybrid A/B model divides the returning students between different days.
“We all want to return to normal. However, hybrid learning in the COVID-19 environment won’t look like the classrooms that we have known,” said Black.
Interviews and article by @FenskeJayden on Twitter.
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