Questions surface about hybrid learning model for back to school

KSLA Hybrid learning quesitons

NORTHWEST LOUISIANA (KSLA) - A disease expert is sounding the alarm about the potential risks of hybrid learning — the name given for a combination of in-person and online instruction for students.

The method’s become a very popular choice for schools across the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Dr. William Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, the risk comes from the younger students who need daycare or child care on their days at home, potentially exposing them to carriers of the coronavirus.

Louisiana’s Regional Medical Director, Dr. Martha Whyte challenges that overly simplistic description of what’s already happening in the real world these days with working families.

“If their parents are working now they’re probably already in child care,” she said. That’s why Dr. Whyte strongly suggests families should stick with the basics to avoid infection.

"Wear your mask, teach your children how to wear a mask. Teach your children about washing their hands and not sharing food and you know. I think those same basic guidelines that we have been stressing, they seem so simple."

We asked both the Caddo and Bossier Parish School Districts about this issue. They both informed us it will not constitute a problem for either of their districts because hybrid learning is only for their middle and high school students.

But not all school districts make that distinction in Louisiana or elsewhere, and that’s why Dr. Hanage is speaking out.

Hybrid learning has become the latest buzzword in the education vernacular largely because many see that model as a simple, effective approach to splitting up students into separate groups, limiting the number of people inside the school and inside classrooms at any given time.

We met some parents who are just not fans of hybrid learning, regardless of the age or grade when it begins. That includes “Ms. J” as she likes to be called.

"A lot of my friends are doing virtual too, pretty much. But then we got parents who's not able to stay at home, who have to work. And then they have a problem since we are being cut off with this unemployment. A lot of parents are having problems too."

Dr. Whyte says it’s impossible to know how all this will unfold in the days and weeks ahead. All they can do is prepare as best they can. She also spoke to us about a different strategy for the younger students. It’s called a static classroom, in which the same two dozen or so students are together all day in the same classroom.

The static classroom model has the teachers who will rotate in and out based on the class, helping reduce the amount of contact they have with all the other students at the school, making any contact tracing efforts much easier should it become necessary.

Dr. Whyte also makes it clear that no one is forcing anyone to take part in a hybrid learning program.

“If you really, truly are afraid and really, truly don’t know if it’s the right thing for your child then consider virtual learning for the first 9 weeks. It’s not something you have to do for the full year.”

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