Grandview Heights Schools leaders see advantages of unusual hybrid model

ALAN FROMAN
afroman@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Every central Ohio school district is approaching education in the COVID-19 age from a slightly different angle.

Grandview Heights Schools' twist is a morning-afternoon format for its hybrid-learning model.

The district, which opened for the 2020-21 school year Aug. 13, was expected to move from full distance learning to the hybrid model Sept. 8, sending students back into classrooms for the first time since March.

Students will attend school every day, either in the morning or in the afternoon.

Many other central Ohio districts opted for an alternating hybrid model, in which the student body is split into "A" and "B" groups that alternate attending classes in person.

Grandview decided the morning-afternoon plan was best for its students for several reasons, Superintendent Andy Culp said.

"We feel very strongly that educationally and pedagogically, having students come to school each and every day for 2 1/2 hours is far superior to coming to school two or three days a week," Culp said. "It's better for students to have daily face-to-face interaction with their teachers. If we had an A/B system, students would go up to three days without that interaction."

Teachers are able to maximize the personalization of their instruction by seeing each student in person each day, chief academic officer Jamie Lusher said.

During the half-day they are not at school, students will be given assignments to work on at home and will engage in remote-learning lessons, Culp said.

Lusher said Grandview is the only central Ohio school district using a morning-afternoon model rather than an A/B system for its hybrid lessons.

"We're really fortunate that we are able to implement an a.m./p.m. model," Lusher said. "In talking to my cohorts, they have issues like school-bus transportation that we don't have that would make it much more difficult to have a morning/afternoon plan."

The district is requiring students to wear masks while in school buildings, and Culp said expecting young people, especially at the elementary school level, to wear a mask for eight hours a day, even if it's just two days a week, is too demanding.

"Wearing a mask is the No. 1 thing that doctors and epidemiologists say helps mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Culp said. "Four hours is better for students than eight hours."

Attending school all day would mean students eat lunch in their building, "and you can't eat lunch with a mask on," Culp said. "They would have to take their masks off to eat, and that would increase the risk of COVID spreading.'

With the morning-afternoon model, students will not eat meals at school, he said.

Morning students may pick up lunches to take home with them as they are leaving school; afternoon students may take home lunches at the end of the day and eat them the next day before they come to school, Culp said.

Students whose last names begin with the letters A-L are attending school in the morning, while those whose names start with M-Z attend in the afternoon.

Reducing roughly by half the number of students in the buildings at any time makes it easier to maintain appropriate social distancing, Culp said.

Hand sanitizers have been placed throughout each school building, and students and staff are reminded "to wash and sanitize their hands often and regularly," he said.

A deep cleaning of classrooms and other common areas will be completed between the morning and afternoon sessions and at night, Culp said.

An improvement in the COVID-19 data in Franklin County led to the decision to switch to the hybrid model, he said.

Districts are provided updated data weekly by Franklin County Public Health, Culp said.

"The positivity rate had improved and the new case rate had also improved over a period of several weeks," he said. "Those are two of the criteria we're using."

Franklin County improving from Level 3 (red) to Level 2 (orange) on the state's color-coded Public Health Advisory System on Aug. 27 was another factor, Culp said.

"Those are the same criteria we'll use in evaluating when or if we need to change back to a distant-learning model," he said. "If we see the trend heading south for a period of weeks, we'll make that evaluation."

Another factor would be whether two or more students testing positive for COVID-19 can be determined to be linked to their being in school together, Culp said.

"It could be in that case we would need to move a class, a grade level or an entire school building to distant learning," he said.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman