K-6 Begins Hybrid Learning

Erin Smith, Staff Writer

Starting on Feb. 9, the Orinda Union School District (OUSD) started to bring students back to campus. The district started phasing students back by their grade level, currently kindergarten through sixth grade are back on campus through the hybrid schedule.

The district is not sending anyone above sixth grade back to campus until the red zone is reached. This is due to many studies finding that teenagers are more likely to get COVID-19 than younger children. According to a study done by the Center for Disease Control, out of 277,285 cases in school-age children 63 percent, were over age 12, compared with just 37 percent between the ages of five and 11.

Most OUSD teachers are back on campus, however a few are not because they may have extreme health risks or are the designated distanced learning teachers. At Sleepy Hollow for example, 15 out of the 17 teachers are on campus, the two that are not present are the district assigned distance learning teachers. 

In the hybrid model there are around 150 students, a little less than half of the student body, on campus at a single time. For the elementary schools each day, besides Monday, is split into an am cohort and a pm cohort. The am cohort goes to school from 8 to 10:50 and the pm cohort goes from 12:10 to 3:00. When students are at home, either during the morning or afternoon, their teachers assign them independent work. Before coming to school, each day students have to complete a health survey on “Frontline”, an app that students can download on their device that consists of yes or no questions regarding COVID-19 symptoms. Once students arrive at school they have to line up outside the classroom on x’s that are marked on the ground six feet away, along with walking certain directions down the hallways.  “The transition has been really organized and safe. Morning and afternoon drop-off/pick-up has gone smoothly, the parents have been amazing with completing the daily health checks on time, and the school custodians have been incredibly helpful with the cleanings in between AM and PM cohorts,” Sleepy Hollow Elementary School teacher Laura Peers said. 

For students who opted not to go back to the hybrid schedule, there are two special distanced learning teachers per grade level that are in charge of teaching the students over Zoom. For these students that transition was just a change of teacher. 

Sixth graders run on a slightly different schedule, however students still have to fill out the form on “Frontline” and obey arrows of the floor telling them which direction to walk. Sixth graders are running on a hybrid schedule that will run more similarly to the Miramonte hybrid schedule. Students are broken into two different groups. One group goes to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the other group goes to school on Wednesday and Fridays. For the days that students are not on campus they Zoom into their classes.

The transition was also very successful for students despite the major change they endured. “The transition was a little weird because I had gotten so used to online school but it was still nice and fun to be able to go back and be able to socialize even if it was within distance. I think they [the district] are trying their best to make it as normal as possible and they are doing a pretty good job even though there are still big differences,” Orinda Intermediate School sixth grader Giorgia Opdycke said. Socialization is a big part of being a child, however, due to the pandemic many students have gone almost a year with little contact with other students. 

After being on Zoom for almost nine months, younger students are taking some time to fully adjust. “I have mixed feelings about going into the hybrid system because I have gotten used to the online way of learning, but I like being with my teacher. Also, it is hard to only have half a day with my teacher instead of a full day, but it is exciting to be able to see my friends,” Sleepy Hollow fourth grader Lucy George said.

The transition back to the hybrid schedule reminded students and teachers the difference that teaching and learning in person makes. It can be difficult for students to pay attention over Zooms because staring into a screen all day is not ideal. It can also be harder for teachers to understand what students need extra help on or gauge what information is not getting processed correctly. “I actually forgot how much easier it is to teach in person until this week! It’s easier to get a feel for how they are doing with the material, what they need more or less of, and then change the lesson according to that. I can also do more engaging activities in person,” Sleepy Hollow Elementary School teacher Elaina Jones said. 

In the new hybrid schedule, some students find themselves more productive as they have a teacher holding them responsible in person. For some students it can be easy over Zoom to divert their attention to a different subject and in turn students can find themselves falling behind. “In-person learning has made me more strict about getting my homework done right away. When I did distance learning, I found myself waiting about 20 minutes to do my homework so I could get a snack break after doing school, while now I just go straight on with schoolwork since I get it done in the morning,” Wagner Ranch fifth grader Giulia Uzuncan said.

To maintain in-person classes, students are making sure to sanitize and social distance. “The students have been wonderful. It’s clear COVID-19 has been going on for a long time because they completely understand and follow the rules well, especially when it comes to social distancing and sanitizing. I look forward to helping the students build their stamina as we’re now back in the classrooms in an environment that is likely less comfortable than home! Kids are unbelievably adaptable and I’ve been so impressed!” Peers said. 

The transition into the hybrid schedule has run fluidly and students and teachers once again have the ability to interact in person to better students’ education. “I am so happy to see my students filled with enthusiasm towards both school and their friends. I just do not think this could happen on Zoom,” Jones said. It has been almost a year since distanced learning started and the transition back to a new kind of normal schedule for most has been very positive.