Gilbert Public Schools poised to return to hybrid learning Dec. 7

Gilbert Public Schools
Gilbert Public Schools campuses are expected to return to a hybrid model of learning Dec. 7. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert Public Schools campuses are expected to return to a hybrid model of learning Dec. 7. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert Public Schools is expected to return to a hybrid model of instruction—part-time in person and part-time online—starting Monday, Dec. 7, through semester’s end as a result of spiking COVID-19 cases.

A final decision on such a move will be made Dec. 3 based on what Maricopa County’s dashboard says about coronavirus transmission risk in Maricopa County and within GPS boundaries.

However, Superintendent Shane McCord told the district governing board at a work-study session Dec. 1 that he expects the dashboard will show high transmission risk in two benchmark categories: cases per 100,000 population and percent positivity in testing.

Last week’s dashboard showed the county and district in the “red,” the county’s color code for high transmission risk, in those two categories.

The governing board passed a resolution Nov. 4 in accordance with which the district would shift into a hybrid model of learning if the county and district were to be in the red for two consecutive weeks.

McCord told the board he will communicate with district employees and families Dec. 2 that they should be prepared to make such a move Dec. 7 if the benchmarks this week read as expected.

He said after the meeting that while the district wants to make the best decision for its students, it is difficult to make one with which everyone will be happy.

“It's personal for every single person,” McCord said of decisions regarding schooling during the pandemic. “That's the thing. I mean, it is personal. I could change start and end times for school, and people will be OK or not OK with it, but after a while, it goes away. This isn’t going away.”

McCord also told the board it is possible that hybrid learning could continue into the spring semester or that the board could even be forced to consider a return to all-remote learning to start the spring semester if the COVID-19 spike continues to get worse.

If such deliberations were to take place, they would come at a special board meeting during the day of Dec. 31, McCord said.

However, board members indicated that it was too early to consider such a move given how fluid the situation is with changing data and guidance.

Board Member Jill Humphreys said that while the decision will not make everyone happy, she believes it is necessary for the community to come together to get through this period until a vaccine is available and in wide use. Failure, she said, is not an option.

“We need to think about everyone in the community,” she said. “And we need to think about the way that we can address issues. So, if kids are struggling, then we deal with those issues.”

In other business:

  • Asked about how the district has dealt with teacher absences while there is a shortage of substitute teachers, Shawn McIntosh, assistant superintendent for talent management, said the district has used other employees, such as librarians, aides and instructional coaches, to cover classes when a substitute cannot be found.

  • The board toured the GPS Transportation Department building and heard a report on the transformation of the department. The district was plagued with busing problems to start the 2019-20 school year, which resulted in a change of department leadership.

  • During a presentation on a revision of the fiscal year 2019-20 annual finance report, Finance Director Jackie Mattinen told the board that the district has been awarded a $14.27 million enrollment stabilization grant from state AZCares funds.

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.