Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools set hybrid plan's target

MARLA K. KUHLMAN
ThisWeekNEWS.com
Superintendent Steve Barrett stands near the doors at Gahanna Lincoln High School, which will welcome students to hybrid learning -- a mix of distance and in-person classes -- at the beginning of the school's second quarter on Oct. 13.

Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools plans to welcome some students back to the classroom with a hybrid model beginning the second quarter of the school year Oct. 13.

Superintendent Steve Barrett said the district's teachers have been "hitting it out of the park" with distance learning.

"Our kids are really engaged," he said.

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"Teachers are using different platforms than they used in the spring," he said. "We're really trying to simulate a school day. There are all kinds of tools they're using to help kids get to know one another and get to know teachers, but also collaborate in their learning. It has been going really well. We're really excited to get started with our hybrid."

For families who didn't choose to enroll students in the all-distance-learning model, the hybrid-learning model will follow a three-day, two-day rotation of classroom and at-home learning, splitting students into a blue group and a gold group.

Barrett said one group would report to their buildings for face-to-face instruction on Tuesdays, Thursdays and rotating Mondays.

The second group would report to their building on Wednesdays, Fridays and rotating Mondays.

On the days students are at home, Barrett said, learning would continue with activities and assignments teachers would provide.

He said it's important the district transition from all-distance to the hybrid in a way that creates equity for students, no matter what learning model they are in.

"We want all of our students to have access to the rich array of courses we offer," he said. "It is important to us that each student in our district has a GJPS teacher, no matter what learning model they choose. We are going to work hard to ensure this and try our best not to use a third-party provider for instruction. Districts across the country have had issues with these providers, and we will try to avoid using them."

Jill Elliott, assistant superintendent, said the district would work with families on an individual basis if the learning model they chose is not working for them.

"We want to be as flexible as we can be, but in some cases, hybrid classrooms might be full and we may need to make a teacher change to accommodate a learning-model change," she said.

If Franklin County's COVID-19 coronavirus alert level worsens or improves, Barrett said, the district would follow recommendations from Franklin County Public Health.

He said the recommendations likely would contain guidelines on social distancing, which would determine how many students the district could safely allow in a classroom setting.

Returning to the classrooms at full capacity five days a week would require a recommendation from Franklin County Public Health, according to Barrett.

Barrett said many factors went into the decision to delay the transition to the end of the first quarter.

"We have received a lot of positive feedback regarding how distance learning is going at the current time, and we wanted to allow our staff and students time in a model that is proving to be successful, so we could maintain some instructional continuity for all," he said.

"We also know that the success we are experiencing now is in large part due to the time and preparation our staff put into getting ready for distance learning, and we know that in order to ensure our hybrid model fosters teacher-student connections both at school and at home, we are working to prepare teachers and our classrooms for live streaming," he said.

Streaming instruction from classrooms to students at home is an innovative approach that will allow learning to happen anywhere, Barrett said.

"It will allow us to nimbly adjust to the unpredictable, and keep learning going even as public-health guidance changes," he said.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla