Lawrence high schools to use different hybrid learning model amid staff concerns; board allows elementary schools to make transition later

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Lawrence school board

A table shown to the Lawrence school board on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, shows how high schools will use a "AB/CD" hybrid learning model starting Oct. 19. The model is different from middle and elementary schools, which will use a "AB/AB" model.

Updated at 12:02 a.m. Tuesday

Despite planning for students to spend two days of in-person learning each week under its original hybrid learning model, the Lawrence school district chose to have its high school students only attend in-person classes once a week.

Rick Henry, director of secondary education, on Monday outlined to the Lawrence school board the district’s plans to move to its hybrid learning model, which is scheduled to begin next week. He explained the high schools will follow a different model than previously discussed because of concerns expressed by faculty and staff about the length of class periods, the lack of teacher planning time and class transition periods.


Lawrence school district announces hybrid learning transition period; school board will likely discuss plan during Monday meeting

Additionally, late in the meeting, the board narrowly approved a plan to allow elementary schools to begin their hybrid learning model later than the rest of the district’s schools.

When elementary and middle school students return to their classrooms, they will follow the previously planned “AB/AB” hybrid schedule, which will separate students into two groups that attend in-person classes on alternate days. When students are not learning in person, they will take their classes remotely. Additionally, on Wednesdays, the plan calls for all students to learn remotely.

However, at the high school level, students will follow a new “AB/CD” model, which calls for students to be split into four groups, each attending in-person classes once a week on different days and remotely four days a week. Similarly, on Wednesdays, all students will attend class remotely.

The AB/CD plan was not revealed until late last week, a little more than a week before hybrid learning is scheduled to begin on Oct. 19. Board vice president Erica Hill said she’s heard from parents who were under the impression the high schools would also follow the same “AB/AB” model as the middle and elementary schools.

Henry said the decision to move to the AB/CD plan was made after working with the high schools’ faculty and staff, who expressed several concerns about the “AB/AB” model for their schools. He said those concerns include how long the block classes would be and how the schedule would provide inconsistent class planning time for the teachers.

Rather than moving to a block schedule plan, the high schools will have students attend all seven of their classes each day. But that increased the amount of times students would be moving from classroom to classroom.

“Because of the concern of adding more transitions throughout the day, we further altered the schedule to bring 25% of the students back each day, rather than the original 50%, to hopefully mitigate exposure (to COVID-19) during those class transitions,” he said.

He also noted high school students who are identified as academically vulnerable could be allowed to attend in-person classes more than once a week. He said the schools are working with families to identify who those students are.

Meanwhile, Henry said the middle schools will use a block schedule, alluding to it being easier to achieve at that level because they have eight class periods, as opposed to the high schools’ seven-period schedule.

Henry also explained the transition plans for the district, as the middle schools and high schools will use a four week phase-in period to slowly adapt to hybrid learning.

Under the transition plans, middle schools and high schools will begin their hybrid learning periods on Oct. 19 by allowing only middle school students who are identified as academically vulnerable and high school students who have experienced internet connection problems to start in-person learning. The rest will continue learning remotely.

The district plans to gradually add more students over the next three weeks, with all high school and middle school students learning through the hybrid model on Nov. 9.

Meanwhile, elementary schools will not use a phase-in period, but will start their hybrid plan later than Oct. 19.

Shortly after 11:30 p.m., the board voted 4-3 to delay the start of hybrid learning for elementary schools until Nov. 9. That delay allows for the elementary schools to transition to the hybrid model during their first full-week of class after the first trimester of the school year concludes on Oct. 29. Board members Melissa Johnson, Paula Smith and Hill voted against the plan.

Originally, the district’s plan called for the elementary schools to also start hybrid on Oct. 19, but district officials said it would make sense to wait a few weeks until the second trimester begins. Board President Kelly Jones said waiting would give the school administrators and faculty more time to prepare for the shift.

However, Hill and Johnson said they did not support that plan because they believed it would hurt academically vulnerable students who need to move to hybrid as early as possible. Hill repeatedly said she wanted assurances the district would find a way to help those students in the meantime. However, those concerns were not addressed in the board’s official vote, which Hill said was a significant disservice to those students.

“There are students in our district who are struggling with remote (learning) and need to be in the building,” Hill said. “I’m incredibly disappointed the motion did not add provisions to provide protection and support and allow for flexibility to address differing levels of student need.”

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