Nearly one year after the world was turned upside down, the City of Malden released an official plan to reopen schools with a hybrid model. Even though this plan answered the big question of when students are returning, it raises even more questions about the how? Students and faculty alike are concerned about the logistics of what teaching in this new format will look like.
The Hybrid Schedule
The current plan for high schoolers is that students will transition to the hybrid schedule the week of March 15th, but only teachers will be in the building. This is so students are able to adjust to the new schedule before experiencing it in-person. It is important to note that all students will remain with their current teachers, returning students will just be split into two cohorts- either Cohort A or Cohort B. These cohorts will most likely be organized by last name in alphabetical order, and all students will be informed of their assigned cohort within the next two weeks.
The hybrid schedule still has students going to three classes a day, but the times are different. The first block starts at 8:00 a.m., followed by periods two and three, with about seven minutes in between. Each class is approximately 80 minutes long. After the end of period three, at 12:14 p.m., students are sent home for the lunch and support periods. There is a “grab and go” option for lunch that students can take at dismissal. Support blocks will be conducted remotely, unless scheduled time with a teacher in advance. If a student decides to stay for support block, they will be assigned to eat lunch somewhere in the school until the period starts. This block is optional for passing students, but those that have failed one or more classes in the first semester will automatically be scheduled. These students will receive 0.5 credit and attendance is mandatory. During support blocks, teachers are expected to remain in the building until 2:15 p.m., due to the MOA (memorandum of agreement) agreed between the teacher’s Union and the district.
If a student is in Cohort A, they would be entering the building on Mondays and Tuesdays. Consequently, a student in Cohort B will be learning from the building on Thursdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays, the school conducts a weekly deep-cleaning, so everyone will be remote. Wednesdays will still follow the typical Blue/Gold Day alternation, just with different class times. Also on Wednesdays, there is a new “Mindfulness” block from 1:05-2:15 p.m. provided through The Ivy Child. They are an organization that focuses on social and emotional care that has created a program specifically for our school.
Inside the School and Classroom
The school is putting a huge emphasis on safety and is doing their best to follow guidelines. The floors have been marked with arrows indicating that people can only enter one way, and hallways have enter and exit signs as well. There are also posters to remind people to social distance and wash their hands. Only about five bathrooms will be open throughout the building, which works out as the anticipation is no more than 400 students per cohort attending in-person.
Over the last month and a half, custodians have reorganized the classrooms so that there are about thirteen desks per room, six feet apart, including the teacher’s desk. Principal Chris Mastrangelo is estimating that there will only be about six or seven students per room, operating at 50% capacity.
Teachers will be exploring the “concurrent teaching” method in their classrooms. School desktops will be outfitted with a “document” camera, which doubles as a webcam. Over the last few days, history teacher Richard Tivnan and math teacher Kayla Scheitlin invited a handful of students into the school, along with a group of teachers to observe different formats of concurrent teaching.
One version had the Google Meet displayed on the whiteboard with a camera facing the in-person students so everyone could see each other. Other formats had all students log into Google Meets. There will be several different methods that teachers can use, whichever one they end up choosing will have to depend on what works best for their type of class. It is important to note the discernible difference between teaching an english class as opposed to a math class.
The school has also put effort into forming a committee on the subject of concurrent teaching to create resources for teachers to utilize, in order to accommodate all the different styles of teaching. Last week, a few second grade teachers met with the staff at Malden High to share some advice, as they have been teaching in-person for a while longer.
What If My Teacher Got an Accommodation to Teach From Home?
The school is currently in the process of hiring additional teachers to fill these spots. There is a certain advantage to the concurrent teaching, in that all the school needs to do is provide an adult in the room to supervise the in-person students. At this point, it is not clear that there will be enough people to cover the classes, so Mastrangelo is considering the possibility that there may be three groups of students covered by one adult, which is actually something that Medford is currently doing.
As for teachers that may call out occasionally for a sick day or personal reasons, there is still a search going on for substitutes to cover a version of “student study center” that the high school used to have. However, instead of one large room, there will be three different ones throughout the building.
Safety Protocols and Guidelines
The responsibility of COVID-screening will fall on the family or caregiver of a student. The school asks that each morning the students are checked for any symptoms before leaving the home. If the student displays any symptoms, they should not attend school and instead notify the school nurse. This absence will be marked as excused. The school nurse will follow-up with the family regarding the student's symptoms and check to see if they have been seen by a medical professional and/or tested. The student will be able to return to school once the school nurse or Malden Board of Health has cleared them.
It is very important to know that the symptoms of COVID-19 could be similar to that of other illnesses. In order to protect all students and staff, any possibility of having the disease should be taken seriously and treated as a suspected case until determined otherwise. Malden High School will distribute information to all families in their primary language to help them conduct the screenings.
When arriving at school, students are required to be on time for their 8:00 a.m. class, but in the building no sooner than 7:45 a.m. There will be assigned doors to enter each morning, and it is imperative that everyone goes directly to their assigned classroom upon entering. There will be no lockers for this school year. Families and visitors will not be allowed inside the building without a scheduled appointment.
There will be staff members outside in the morning to help students with building entry. It will be staggered in order to ensure the six feet of separation required by the state. As always, masks will have to be worn at all times and students will sanitize at the entrance. For dismissals, there will be assigned doors in four different parts of the building to exit. This allows for students to continue social distancing.
The assigned doors for entering and exiting depends directly on what your first and last period is. For instance, if your first class is in Jenkins, you would be entering through the designated door for that house, which will likely be the auditorium doors. There will be signs that clearly mark this. Since the school is not reimplementing homerooms, your entrance to the school will no longer rely on what house you are in.
On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, during asynchronous times, informational meetings will be held to review policies, procedures, protocols, and expectations of the return to school. Mastrangelo will send out the links to these meetings the night before, so make sure to keep an eye out for them. Wednesday is for grades 9 and 12, and Thursday is for grades 10 and 11.
Principal Mastrangelo wants everyone to know that this reentry into school is going to be bumpy, for teachers, students, and administrators alike. April 22nd will look a lot better than March 22nd. The important thing to remember is that “nobody is going to make a mistake on purpose,” but also understand that mistakes are going to be made. Nothing is going to look perfect the first time around, but this is the next step in the process.
Mastrangelo acknowledges that some students and faculty have been struggling with remote learning and isolation, but he also sees the students that are thriving in this new format. Those students still have the option to continue learning remotely, but his focus is on the students that do not have a choice. Giving this choice allows for the school to “meet students where they are at,” and to best accommodate with everyone’s needs.
“It’s been a hard year for everybody, on a million different levels. We’re just trying to come back in and give students and faculty the option, and also understand that it may not look pretty at first, but we’re going to get there, and we’re going to get there together.”