One step closer to normalcy

A+look+at+an+early+morning+sunrise+from+third-floor+k-pod.+Take+a+closer+look%2C+and+you%27ll+also+notice+a+parking+lot+filled+with+cars+driven+by+students+and+teachers.+Although+the+parking+lot+may+not+get+to+be+filled+to+full+capacity+this+year%2C+going+hybrid+will+bring+back+some+life+into+this+lot.+

Connor Niszczak

A look at an early morning sunrise from third-floor k-pod. Take a closer look, and you’ll also notice a parking lot filled with cars driven by students and teachers. Although the parking lot may not get to be filled to full capacity this year, going hybrid will bring back some life into this lot.

The original plan for the start of the 2020-2021 school year was to offer families the choice of all three options: in-person, hybrid, or 100% online. But the day we all heard that we were going to start the school year 100% virtual and not have the other two as options anymore came with a sharp, subtle surprise. It left many parents, students, and staff with questions like “what if we just keep delaying the reopening plan?” And about two weeks ago, our school board eradicated any worries about that scenario by finalizing plans to get the entire district onto a hybrid schedule as early as the end of October—depending on your grade level. When that news came out, our high school principal, Mr. Pete Nicholson, had to figure out how to make the boards’ wishes his command.

“We had somewhat of an outline of what a hybrid model could be way back in June or July. We started to look at possibilities and we knew that at the end of last year that this year was not going to start with three thousand kids back in the building. We had a general sense or guidelines of what a hybrid model could look like and that shaped our thinking moving forward. We’ve been meeting regularly now for quite a few weeks before the board made their final determination with November 9th,” said Nicholson.

“I think it’s going to be emotional for the first couple of days. It was just so tough last year when everything ended and to start this year this way has just been awful,” Nicholson said. “I took for granted so many little things—every day there were these same group of girls outside my office and we’d say good morning to each other when I went out to get my coffee from the breakfast cart in K-pod, and the thought of those little interactions not happening as frequently is a little upsetting.”

I think it’s going to be emotional for the first couple of days. It was just so tough last year when everything ended and to start this year this way has just been awful. I took for granted so many little things—every day there were these same group of girls outside my office and we’d say good morning to each other when I went out to get my coffee from the breakfast cart in K-pod, and the thought of those little interactions not happening as frequently is a little upsetting”

— Mr. Pete Nicholson

When Nicholson and other administrators discussed how they could make things at the high school run with a hybrid model, they had to consider social distancing, scheduling, and other guidelines enforced by the State. But there were aspects to reopening that many people didn’t consider that would need a lot of reconsidering at first. Take lunch for example.

“We’re still working on lunch a little bit. One thing that is going to happen is that we are going to have seating charts for all lunch periods and other periods. We are also going to be more spread out throughout the building,” said Nicholson.

Students on opposite sides of the table will be separated by plexiglass so that we can ensure a safe lunch environment that accommodates all students in the cafeteria for lunches. In addition to that, students that have Lunch Study may be assigned to a different location such as the Audion or Auditorium so that those that are scheduled to eat can remain in the cafeteria and not intermingle with those who are not scheduled to eat.

“The delivery itself will also be different. We are going to ask students to order ahead of time to make things a little easier to pick up. You’d order in the morning and then you’d be given a location to go pick up your box of lunch. That way, you don’t have to wait in a long cafeteria line to get your food, students would be picking them up from a cafeteria worker from the Senior Cafe or the Cookie Corner to make sure that everyone won’t have to go into the kitchen area to pick up their food,” Nicholson added.

The delivery itself will also be different. We are going to ask students to order ahead of time to make things a little easier to pick up. You’d order in the morning and then you’d be given a location to go pick up your box of lunch. That way, you don’t have to wait in a long cafeteria line to get your food, students would be picking them up from a cafeteria worker from the Senior Cafe or the Cookie Corner to make sure that everyone won’t have to go into the kitchen area to pick up their food”

— Mr. Nicholson

Students will still have the option of going to the cafeteria and waiting in line to get their lunch. To limit the population in the cafeteria, students will have the ability to order their lunches for the day from an app on their phone. The name of the app is currently unknown; however, more information on it will be released within the next few weeks prior to November 9th.

“Ultimately in all of this, safety comes first. We want to make sure everyone is safe in this—not just students. You need teachers in the building and you need them to be healthy or else all of this doesn’t work. That’s just as or if not, more important that we have our staff comfortable and healthy or they won’t be there for you guys in the building,” Nicholson said.

One of the major elements of the hybrid option is the grouping plan. Earlier this week, parents received an email detailing what system the high school would be using in regards to student schedules. It includes two groups: Group A and Group B. Group A will come on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Group B will come on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Both groups would alternate who comes in on Friday.

“It’s certainly not going to be alphabetical, but not totally random. We are using the Infinite Campus platform, and within that platform, there is a blended learning module,” Nicholson said. “This allows us to run some sort of algorithm that is well beyond my head, that balances everyone’s schedule. The program looks at all of the courses in the building, and it does its very best to balance everyone’s schedules.”

“The program also looks at the households and looks at if you have any family members. If a student at the high school has a younger sibling at the middle school, it will make sure that they stay together. You wouldn’t have a high school student coming in on an A-day, and a middle school student coming in on a B-day,” Nicholson said.

If there is an instance where a high school student is living with a younger cousin who has a different last name, the system will be based on residence, not just the last name.

Because of all of the transportation concerns with 18 different buildings, we will be moving back to a 7:21 to 2:12 schedule, instead of the current 7:30 to 2:25 schedule, from Mondays through Thursdays. Fridays, however, would be a 12:12 dismissal, ending 2 hours early. There will also be no one-hour break once we are in the hybrid phase of reopening schools.

Although the hybrid model does not represent how many students wish to come back, it is a step closer to normalcy.

“I am so tired of looking at Google Meet grids instead of meeting in person. And it’s also to just see kids around. Whether it’s soccer or the marching Knights, it’s just nice to see kids back around the building, so I am so excited for the 9th. It’s just going to be awesome to have kids back in the building,” Nicholson concluded.