With less than a month to go before the school year begins, the look of that year is becoming clear.
Last night, in a Zoom meeting with the Board of Education, superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice recommended a hybrid model. It’s different at each level, but consistent in one way: All students — at least, all who do not choose full-time remote learning — would spend half their time in school, half at home.
Staples High School would have 2 cohorts, based alphabetically on last name (A-K, L-Z).
One cohort would be in school Monday and Tuesday; the other, Thursday and Friday. There would be 4 classes a day; each class is 80 minutes long. When students are not in school, they’d be online.
On Wednesday, all students would learn remotely. The highly touted Connections group meetings would be held that day too.
The final 30 minutes of each day are set aside for teachers to support and connect with remote learners.
The middle school model divides students into cohorts too — both alphabetical, and based on their “home school” (Bedford or Coleytown). One group would in school Monday and Thursday, online Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. The other group is in school Tuesday and Friday, online Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
All middle school students would be online Wednesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. On that day, teachers will have professional responsibility time from 12:30 to 3:15.
The elementary school model was developed thanks to “herculean, unparalleled work” by professionals at all 5 schools, Scarice said.
The elementary model — which emphasizes literacy and math for live instruction — splits youngsters into morning and afternoon groups. There would be live “online specials” when students are home; phys. ed., art, music and Spanish are taught once a week. Small group instrumental lessons and ensembles would be taught virtually. Students would eat at home.
Stepping Stones Preschool would be “business as close to usual” as possible. The class size is 9 to less than 14, meeting state guidelines.
Scarice pulled no punches in his introductory remarks. “This is not a 100% data-driven decision. Nor should it be,” he said.
Noting “we are a community and nation enveloped in fear and uncertainty,” he acknowledged that any decision would impact “students, families, teachers, staff members and the entire community. We will not be able to answer every question. This is something we’ve never done before.
“There will be a perception of winners and losers,” he acknowledged. “We must remember: Our purpose is to serve students.”
Although there is a national debate over the role and conduct of education and educators, the superintendent said, “This is a moment for our profession to shine. I am fully confident we will do this very, very well.”
The Board also heard a proposal to move the first day for students back a week, from September 1 to September 8. Those extra days are needed for staff training.
The Board of Education will vote on the hybrid models, and the calendar change, at their next meeting, on Monday.