Return to Learn: The Highs and Lows of Hybrid Learning

Guest: Natalie Hammond, Principal of a Connecticut Elementary School, Former Sandy Hook Educator & Survivor of the Tragedy

Q: Why did you feel like the hybrid model fit the needs of your school community best, and do you have a plan in place to transition to full time in-person learning?
A: Reopening with the hybrid model is giving our students and staff an opportunity to transition back into the building with smaller cohorts as we have created new routines, protocols and procedures for our building. It is giving our staff an opportunity to focus on Social Emotional Learning and making connections/developing relationships with their students. We are focusing for the first two weeks on community building. The students will be able to get used to the new protocols so when we fully re-enter, which could possibly be in October, they will be ready.

Q: How have students in your school responded to the hybrid model? Has the transition been difficult for some, and if so, what strategies have you used to support them?
A: We just came back to session recently, with students in Cohort A joining us in person and students in Cohort B working with us virtually from home. Other than a few minor technology issues, our reopening was a success. Students transitioned back into the building beautifully and were able to keep their masks on!

Q: How will in-home learning assignments supplement in-person school learning? 
A: Our teachers are providing live streaming opportunities throughout the day (starting with community building activities, class meetings, and working towards live learning in all content areas). All students in K-4 are using the Google Classroom platform to access assignments while at home. There is a schedule sent out each week for families so they know what the need to do at home. Currently we have about 14% of students whose families have opted to keep them at home for Temporary Learning From Home. We will be sending out supply and resources to these families so that ALL students are able to complete activities that are happening at school.

Q: What are the pros and cons you have found in your health planning considerations for the hybrid model? For example, a pro might be that it’s easier to social distance while a con may be running a high risk of spreading COVID-19 when you rotate students each day.
A: We have had to develop a comprehensive plan regarding health and safety protocols. We created videos for our students, and teachers are sharing these regularly with students. With the hybrid model, we are comfortable at the elementary level that students tend to stay within their classroom cohort for most of the day. We have the students staggered for lunch and recess so that at no time are there too many students in the cafeteria or out on the playground. It is easier to social distance, but students are not able to socialize as easily with students from other classrooms/cohorts. While in the cafeteria, there are only 2 students at each table in order to be socially distanced. Our buses have assigned seats based on the location of the bus stop. There is a mix of cohorts on the bus, but the students have assigned spots. All buses are washed daily.

Tune in next week part 2 of our Return Learn Blog series. Brad Welles, Deputy Superintendent of Grain Valley Schools will discuss his school community’s experience of returning to school for full time in-person learning.

Hear more from Natalie Hammond at the 2020 Virtual National Summit on School Safety, October 7, 8, and 9! Learn more about this event here.