Wednesday, April 21, 2021
74.0°F

Othello schools to remain in hybrid model

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | March 31, 2021 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — Othello School District students will attend classes in the hybrid model, which includes classes on campus part-time and online part-time, through the end of the current school year.

Othello School Board members verbally approved the plan at a special meeting Monday, but three board members said they would push for a return to school full time for the 2021-22 school year.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently revised guidelines for social distancing in schools, which included reducing the distance required to three feet. Assistant superintendent of teaching and learning Pete Perez said at the March 22 board meeting that district officials would review the hybrid class model if the guideline was reduced to three feet.

Perez said the new guidelines wouldn’t make any difference at McFarland Middle School and Othello High School, due to the way the schedules were designed. In addition, keeping middle school and high school students in one classroom with one teacher, which is how classes are conducted at the grade schools, wouldn’t work at MMS or OHS.

Executive director of human resources Sandra Villarreal said bringing more kids back to school would require major changes to the breakfast and lunch programs and bus routes.

John Weisman, the district’s director of professional learning, said students have been back on campus about six weeks, and teachers are starting to develop some momentum. Another schedule change might disrupt that, Weisman said.

With only about 40 school days left in the year, Perez said district officials recommended staying with the hybrid model to avoid more disruption.

“We expect to be fully back in a traditional model by August,” Perez said, adding district officials hope to use some of the lessons of the pandemic to improve instruction.

Perez said elementary summer school classes will be scheduled at each school, rather than all students meeting at one school, and classes will be in compliance with the current social distancing rules.

“The move toward the traditional model, we don’t expect to make that happen until next school year,” Perez said.

Board member Lindsy Prows said she had talked to parents and administrators around the district, and the majority of her contacts indicated a preference for staying in the hybrid model through the rest of the year. Prows said she would prefer to have all kids back on campus full time, but she would go with the majority.

Her reaction will be different for the 2021-22 school year.

“I will be a dog with a bone if we are having this conversation in the fall. Because I absolutely will not accept anything less than kids in school all day, every day, come the fall,” Prows said.

She was encouraged to see planning for next year envisioned a return to full time school.

“I hope that is the path we stay on, because that is a fight I will not give up on,” Prows said.

Board member Sharon Schutte said she agreed with Prows.

Board member Ken Johnson said the discussion about returning to school had generated more response from district patrons than any other issue since he joined the school board. He, too, was ready to stay in the hybrid model, but the 2021-22 school year would be different.

“When it comes this fall, I’m ready. All in. Full day,” Johnson said.

“Hopefully come August, this is a non-issue,” said board chair Mike Garza.

He said he wanted to keep monitoring the situation over the remainder of the school year.

There are benefits to the hybrid model, board member Jenn Stevenson said, that district officials have been unable to explore previously.

“I’m not quite ready to say, we have to be back full day in the fall, because who knows where the (infection rate) numbers will be then,” Stevenson said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.