Gilbert Public Schools considers using hybrid model for phased-in return to in-person instruction

Gilbert Public Schools
Gilbert Public Schools' governing board will allow in-person instruction once the state's health metrics have been met. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert Public Schools' governing board will allow in-person instruction once the state's health metrics have been met. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert Public Schools could return to a hybrid model of in-person and online instruction as soon as Sept. 8 and full in-person learning Sept. 21 under a phased-in return presented Aug. 18 to the governing board.

The board, which held an executive session and special meeting, took no action on the presentation but could at the regularly scheduled Aug. 25 meeting.

Instead, Superintendent Shane McCord suggested it as a possible outcome to a phased-in return, an approach for which the board requested administration put together a proposal.

McCord’s suggestion came near the end of a nearly 4 1/2-hour meeting, which started with 30 people making public comments, mostly for bringing students back in person as soon as possible. One even suggested the school district would owe taxpayers money if they did not return in the next couple weeks.

However, board members indicated they intended to honor their previous vote to return when state benchmarks demonstrate a safe return can be achieved.

Many of the public comments focused on the difficulty of online learning between the lack of connection with teachers and peers and the technological glitches that have made the venture difficult.

“There is nothing better for kids than in-person instruction,” McCord said later, while urging the district return as quickly but as safely as possible. “We are proving that on a daily basis.”

The hybrid model presented had students working in person two days a week, doing independent learning two days a week and online instruction a third day.

What days a student would be on campus largely would be decided on an alphabetical sort, but the result would be campuses would only be at 50% capacity each day, allowing for greater social distancing not just at school but on buses, in the cafeteria or on the playgrounds as well.

The district also would have a number of protocols for health screenings, cleaning, sanitizing, district operations and communications.

Under the phased-in approach, the district would survey staff Aug. 19-21 to determine their on-site return status.

Then parents would give their preferred choice of delivery model for the first semester—in-person instruction or GPS Global Academy, the district’s online school.

The district would then prepare schools for return to in-person instruction from Aug. 25-Sept. 4 with student enrollment and scheduling and staff reassignments. The district would transition to full in-person learning Sept. 21.

For it to happen, the district would have to be “in the green,” meaning minimal community spread on state health metrics benchmarks. The district meets that on two of three benchmarks now, but falls in the red, or substantial community spread, on percentage of positive testing.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.