Magazine News Volume 70, Issue 7

Walnut Creek School District Elementary Schools Begin Hybrid

By Cam Lippincott

Graphic By Jackie Veliz

After nearly a year of distance learning, the Walnut Creek School District elementary schools began hybrid learning on February 16 for Kindergarten and Transitional Kindergarten and February 23 for grades 1-5. The district has had success and teachers are reporting positively. 

Students who are doing hybrid learning have been going to school every weekday except Wednesday, where they are assigned asynchronous work. School begins at 8:15 and ends at 10:55 for students in hybrid.

The students follow protocols that are similar to their high school counterparts. These protocols include the following: students must wear a face mask for the entire school day, students must follow certain pathways to navigate the school campus, students must maintain social distancing of at least six feet, and students must complete daily symptom checks and will not be allowed at school if they show any.

For student drop off and pick-up, parents may not leave their vehicle at any point and students must go to their classrooms immediately. Students who arrive before 8:05 are not allowed to leave their car until 8:05 in order to keep students organized.

Recess is still a part of the school day, but with modifications. The school staggers recess times between classes and each class has a designated area in the playground. Students must wash their hands before and after recess. Students are also allowed to eat snacks during recess as long as they are six feet apart.

Lunch time has been completely cut from the school day since the school day ends early; however, the school district provides a free bagged lunch for all students when the school day ends. The school also provides free breakfast for the following day after school. Students who are in remote learning can also receive free breakfast and lunch for the week at WCI on mMondays and tThursdays. 

In the classroom, teachers are encouraged to keep windows and doors opened as much as possible to keep the air fresh. Teachers are also allowed to use outdoor learning spaces if their current lesson allows for it. Teachers are responsible for limiting the sharing of classroom supplies such as pencils, crayons, etc,. and for making sure hand sanitizer is available in the classroom. Teachers also have an air purifier to use in their classrooms. Desks are also spread apart to maintain six feet of distance.

Students who did not opt-in for hybrid still have zZoom sessions with their teachers from 12:00 to 2:40.

Janelle Stabb, a 3rd-grade teacher at Indian Valley, said, “Hybrid is going better than I expected, being able to interact in person with students definitely brings back the joy of learning and teaching. I feel the students are more engaged during in-person learning and there are way less distractions as they are at school and not home.” Stabb also commented on the differences between hybrid and normal learning: “The major differences are having 14 students rather than 24. I have been doing flexible seating in my classroom for the past five years and now each student is at their own desk, spaced six feet apart from other desks, with a desk shield on their desks. Students are not allowed to freely roam the classroom, [and] all their supplies have to be at their own desk. I have to maintain six feet from students throughout the day as well. This is a huge difference as I can not go and help or sit with struggling students or students with questions.”

Stabb said that students who are in a hybrid are clearly excited to be back in school: “It is a lot better for the in person students. It is definitely a bit of reality being back in the classroom and I can see that some students haven’t been pushed as hard being at home or held accountable for their work. Their energy and enthusiasm has been awesome.  The students are also doing better than expected with all the social distancing rules and new procedures in place.”