Now, with the 2020-21 school year set to begin remotely for all students next week, district officials said they believe a hybrid approach is needed for the high school and senior high school students who have opted to return to classrooms later in the year.
Plano ISD administrators unveiled these details Aug. 4 in a meeting of the board of trustees. Under the latest outline, high school and senior high school students who opted for face-to-face instruction this year would still have multiple days of remote schooling each week.
The new plans were driven by these schools’ complex scheduling considerations—where each student works with a number of teachers each day, not just one—as well as their ability to safely enforce social distancing guidelines, Assistant Superintendent for Academic Services Katrina Hasley said.
“It’s a health concern,” Hasley told trustees, adding under a hybrid model there would be a smaller number of people on campus at a time.
Students who opted for a fully remote learning environment this year—nearly half of the district’s enrollment—would not be affected by the change unless they later opted for returning to an in-person approach.
The district is pursuing a slightly different path for middle schoolers. While face-to-face learners would not be subject to a hybrid model, the district plans to pair middle school remote learners with face-to-face learners in the same class under the same teacher. Officials refer to this pairing as “co-seating.”
Like the hybrid model for high schoolers, the co-seating approach for middle schoolers helps the district navigate its complex scheduling considerations, Hasley said. It also means that students who start out remotely when campuses reopen will not have to switch teachers if they later prefer to return to the classroom.
Elementary schools will find the original plan—one group of students fully remote, with another on campus throughout the week—easier to implement, Hasley said. This is partly because those students fall under a single teacher, she said.
Plano ISD students at all levels are set to begin the school year Aug. 12 in a fully remote setup as the coronavirus continues to spread through the area. The district is currently planning for a return to classrooms for face-to-face learners Sept. 9.
Superintendent Sara Bonser told trustees she received a great deal of feedback from parents and staff throughout the district. While some of that feedback was supportive of the decision to delay a return to in-person instruction, some of it was critical of the administration’s decision, she said.
Bonser said she understood the criticisms and had been struggling with those same issues. She added the district has been navigating a complex and ever-changing situation while trying to balance educational outcomes and safety for all involved.
“I know that schools are a better place for kids to be, but I also know that if I had control over a period of time when I thought I could save a life, then I would save a life,” Bonser said.