Middle and high school plan for hybrid learning
By Marina-Rae Gill, Reporter
As of March 1, Chautauqua Elementary School (CES) has begun its transition back to in-person school, starting with the kindergarten classes. This is Vashon Island School District’s (VISD) first step in the process of returning to school, which will follow with other CES grades, as well as the middle school and high school. Looking ahead, the district has targeted April 12 through April 15 to begin the middle and high schools’ transition back to in-person learning. VISD will also be providing bus transportation and will determine the safest ways to execute their current plan based on the data collected from several surveys sent to students and their families.
In preparation for the returning students, Superintendent Slade McSheehy and VISD staff members are implementing safety regulations such as physical distancing and face coverings, which will be strictly enforced. VISD has also facilitated the vaccination of all teachers and staff.
“Every staff member in our district will have access to vaccinations [March 9] … including coaches.” McSheehy said. “[Bus] drivers are already vaccinated [as well].”
To help keep those in attendance as safe as possible, there will be a 12-student limit per classroom, and several classes will be held in the lunch and common areas as well.
“In terms of classrooms, there will be fewer desks, probably a maximum of 12 to 15 desks in a room, most likely closer to 10 or 12,” McSheehy said. “In the great hall, there’ll be desks for students to sit at … [and] an emphasized access on outside seating as well.”
Between VHS and McMurray, 79.3 percent of students plan on returning to hybrid school. In response to this, VHS vice principal Andrew Guss and other VISD staff have developed a two-cohort plan, which divides the student body in half alphabetically by last name.
“We will have an ‘A’ cohort and a ‘B’ cohort of students based on the number of survey responses we’ve gotten … There’s a Monday-Wednesday cohort, and a Tuesday-Thursday cohort.” Guss said. “Friday will be the same thing we do right now, which is distanced learning for everybody.”
Moving forward, students will continue their three class schedule at the start of fourth quarter. Because of this, the district has been working out how to safely move people around the building in order to get students from class to class.
“There won’t be a first period and then a break. That can’t exist.” Guss said “And transition times will literally be from class to class … Lunch release will be staggered, so we’ll release kids in small amounts at a time.”
Though still in planning stages, this new system will increase the overall class time for students. This way teachers can help both their students who are physically in class and students who opted to stay at home. There will also be designated bathroom breaks throughout each period.
“[Classes] will be about eighty minutes long … but that gives space for teachers to focus on the whole group, both online and distance.” Guss said. “It gives space for teachers to say, ‘students who are doing distance, you work independently’ … and it gives them time to say, ‘in-person students, you work independently.’”
To help organize and finalize details of the hybrid plan, a safety committee has been formed with representatives from across the district.
“On the school safety team, we have a representative from custodial, two from health services, from teaching staff, from [the] teachers union, one from the classified staff union, food services, administration, counciling, and office staff.” Guss said. “ Admin is running all of that information through them and processing with them … and it’s a way for them to bring up concerns.”
Addressing the difficulties that the district has faced in organizing in-person school, McSheehy stressed the importance of supporting each other and adhering to regulations in order to keep everyone safe.
“I’ll end with expressing gratitude to all the staff for their diligence, and working through details and the nuances of returning students to in-person learning.” McSheehy said, “We all share a common purpose of keeping students, staff, and families in our community safe.”