Manhattan-Ogden school district officials know there are questions about how schools will operate under a “hybrid model” when in-person classes start Aug. 26.
The hybrid model alternates students between on-site and remote learning to keep the buildings at about 50% capacity. This model is one of two contingency plans the district made depending on the number of local COVID-19 cases. Officials are still working out the details of the reopening plan, but they said they will use the hybrid model for in-person classes at least at the beginning of the year.
“It really balances class sizes so we can social distance and we can provide students with a little bit more of their own space at the elementary level,” said Paula Hough, executive director of teaching and learning. “At the secondary level it really does allow for less transitions, less interactions that will allow our staff and students to remain safer in this crazy time.”
Here’s how it will work: All K-12 students will have class five days a week.
Students who choose in-person classes will be divided in two groups, and each group will be on-site for two days a week and remote the other three days. Group A will attend on-site Monday and Tuesday and will be remote Wednesday-Friday. Group B will be remote Monday-Wednesday and on-site Thursday and Friday. Nobody will have on-site classes on Wednesdays.
The time off will allow custodial workers to deep-clean buildings.
Students who choose remote learning obviously will have online classes all five days of the week.
It’s a little different for early childhood schools. Half-day early childhood classes are already at the size to meet COVID-19 physical distancing guidelines, so they will continue as scheduled. Children in full-day classrooms that exceed recommended numbers as outlined by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will move to a half-day schedule.
Assistant superintendent Eric Reid said officials don’t yet know exactly how teachers will juggle in-person and remote students or what software they’ll use. All students are set to receive iPads.
USD 383 officials said they will follow the guidance of the Riley County Health Department and MHK Task Force as they move forward with decisions to move to full on-site classes. According to the Reopening Plan released Aug. 5, on-site learning will happen when schools can operate at 100% capacity while remaining in compliance with the local health officer order.
All models of the plan include enhanced cleaning. Hough said the maintenance and facilities department has been going above and beyond in keeping buildings clean.
“Matt Davis, the director, hasn’t swayed from this being about kids and about instruction,” she said. “Every time a new situation comes up, he is just so willing to work with what needs to happen.”
Once students are back in the building full time, if Riley County begins to see increases in COVID-19 numbers, school officials will again activate the hybrid model. If the risk becomes too great, the district will move into its contingency plan B, which is for all students to do remote learning.
With the Riley County Health Department, they developed a color-coded system to use as a guide for movement through full on-site, hybrid and contingency B.
When the color is red, all students will move into remote-only learning. When, over a 14-day period, 10% or more of all the COVID-19 tests administered come back positive. When the number goes below 10% the color will go to yellow and the students move back into hybrid. Green is when 5% or fewer of the Riley County COVID tests come back positive and there is a steady or decreasing number of cases.
Right now, the district would be at “yellow.”
Hough said for the start of the school year they will stay in hybrid until school and health officials meet and the county can see if there is an increase.