Magazine News Opinions Volume 70, Issue 3

Is Hybrid School Really Worth It?

by Cameron Pitzak

Graphic by Jackie Veliz

In the finalized hybrid schedule for Acalanes Union High School District as of November 18, 2020, the student body will be split up into two cohorts to limit the amount of contact students have with each other. Mondays will remain asynchronous, so students will still be doing online work. The model strictly follows the CDPH guidance for schools and school-based programs, which includes face-covering requirements and intensified cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation. But with the difficulty of following all of these precautions, will students even get any educational benefit in being in this kind of setting?

In a poll performed by AUHSD, asking parents and staff how they feel about hybrid school, parents showed a strong desire for student interaction with peers and teachers in a structured setting, but also voiced concerns about students being on campus, especially during unstructured times like lunch break and passing periods. Staff members voiced similar opinions with concern about their ability to manage different cohorts of students and provide quality instruction to both at all times. There is a need for training and professional development for another model of instruction.

This poll showed that teachers are unprepared for a hybrid schedule, and both parents and teachers are concerned about students not following guidelines outside of their classrooms. It’s hard for me to imagine that every student in a given cohort will stay 6 feet apart, wear a mask, and not make excessive contact with objects at all times. High school students are still kids, and while many students will be responsible and strictly follow the guidelines, many just do not care. 

When it comes to actual education, the hybrid schedule does a great job at solving two of the biggest problems: developing teacher-student relationships and improving student peer relationships. A lack of communication in online school has made Zoom meetings feel like empty wastelands. Many students are insecure and only show the top of their head or their ceiling on camera and are unwilling to speak in class. With students being in an actual classroom again, they will finally be able to make relationships with each other, and teachers will also be able to personally connect with their students.

Any freshman or student that may have switched to our district during the pandemic might be having a lot of trouble making friends in Zoom classes, so people will be able to start forming new friendships again once hybrid school starts. This doesn’t just go for new students, as I believe this applies to everyone.

However, the hybrid schedule still has its drawbacks. In order for classrooms to be safe, strict limits have been placed on how many students can be in one class at a time. Even though the student body will be split up into two groups, the safe maximum capacity of most classrooms is less than half the size of the class, so creating a proper schedule to conform to their limits will be a challenge.

Teachers will also have to devise entirely new lesson plans to fit with the new situation. While students may be split up into two groups, teachers will still have contact with all of their students. Splitting the student body into two cohorts won’t stop students from either cohort being in contact with each other. Furthermore, each period will be split in half, with one half in school and the other still online. This will essentially double the amount of classes teachers have to manage, since they have to run a live zoom class and a live in school class at the same time. Running 5 sections in online school is hard enough for a teacher, but making them manage 10 hybrid sections is going to be nearly impossible. 

Returning to in-person school may create new issues with students. Many might face entirely new problems we did not have before. For example, some students might have anxiety about having more contact during the pandemic.

Hybrid schedule has both its drawbacks and its positives, so when January 5, 2021, comes around, we will see how it works out. This is a situation that will most likely be played by ear since there is almost no way of perfectly predicting how students will react to the new system and whether it will be an improvement from online school or if it will create more new problems than it fixed. It’s important to be critical of the system to ensure the safety of students and staff, but we should feel lucky that we are on track to reopen and have social contact again.