Is hybrid helping your students?

Taking a chance for socialization by lowering face-to-face opportunity

A majority of students spend a required 13 years of their lives in a classroom or having similar in-person instruction. Then the pandemic came and closed classroom doors. Students could no longer  physically interact with their teachers or peers .  Across the country, we began to see our educators scrambling to bring whatever they could to the table and continue educating their students to the best of their abilities. Throughout the spring, the result was chaos. The country remained hopeful over the summer that COVID would run its course and school could resume in our “new normal.”. We now know how disappointing things turned out. However, our school districts and educators have pulled through and given our children fantastic educational opportunities via several online platforms. On Zoom, teachers have given live lessons multiple times of the day and five days of the week.

Fresno Pacific has also modified its approach to education in order to adapt to the pandemic. The instructors have worked hard to deliver interactive class experiences  and the essential information we need through Zoom.

There’s a hiccup, though: it began when our student-parents were juggling their distance-learning education with that of their children. The Syrinx published an article earlier in the semester addressing this very subject. Distanced learning has its difficulties and complications, but now we face something new. Many elementary schools in the San Joaquin Valley have started to reopen, using a “hybrid” schedule. This schedule looks different depending on the school district and county. Still, regulations by the state of California help to keep them very similar to each other. To reduce the number of students on campus, the schedule either alternates the days per week, or hours per day, that students should be present. While this seems to be an improvement—providing children with much needed in-person time with their teachers and peers—it could also create new problems.

Student-parents have established a routine that works with both their children’s distance-learning situation and their own. When their child now has to return to school for specific hours a day, or only certain days a week, with special release times to boot, this could create schedule conflicts. Many schools are not offering after-school programs right now. What programs are offered have a limited capacity or first-come-first-serve policy for working families. This means that a student-parent may be in class while their child is released from school. This would require the student-parent to work closely with their advisor and instructors in order to manage courses.  

The other potential problem, that I have encountered myself with my own child, is the trade-off that a hybrid schedule has created. Distance learning provided five days a week of Zoom-hosted, face-to-face time with the teacher. There were two to three live Zoom lessons a day, every day. The entire class was able to talk to each other and interact, even through Zoom. When the hybrid schedule started, my child began to attend school two days a week, 8 am-1:30 pm. On Monday, the entire class Zooms with their teacher for fifteen minutes. The rest of the day consists of unstructured activities, including working on three separate computer programs, and features no actual organized lesson plans. This isn’t because the teacher fails to teach them, but because the teacher needs Mondays to record the other four days in the week. When my child is home, she has one Zoom in the morning for thirty minutes with her class. She is then on her own for the entire day, doing assignments based on either her teacher or computer programs’ pre-recorded lessons. While I think the crucial in-person aspect of hybrid is essential for socialization purposes, I can’t help but wonder where the trade-off in primary education will show. The teachers at our Valley schools are working in unprecedented times. They continue putting in long hours preparing lessons and striving to find new ways to engage our kids with the tools given to them.

Student-parents have one other problem with hybrid schedules, and it’s one that I think any family could face:.  the increased risk of COVID-19 infection.  I am not claiming that sending our children back to school means we are all going to get COVID. Schools are taking severe precautions to prevent infection, but the issue doesn’t necessarily reside with the schools themselves. Going back to a semi-school schedule may include the need for children to begin attending a school or daycare programs. While these facilities can maintain excellent health and safety protocols, when we have several children together from several different places, who then leave to go to their homes, we are still increasing the risk of exposure. Even if we do our best, the very nature of the situation creates danger.

While there is no right or wrong answer to the current crisis, we all know how important it is for our children to be in school. The reality is the pandemic has given us the frustrating need to compromise. FPU also wants all of our student-parents to succeed. Our advisors and faculty are there for students whenever there is a situation. In an ideal world, we would all be able to be on our campuses. The Syrinx hopes to support all students at FPU and student-parents who may be struggling; they should remember that FPU is for them, too.

Author: Janelle Fontaine | Opinions Editor

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