By Marisa Guerra Echeverria, Staff Writer
// After multiple projections, hours of careful planning in meetings, and the gathering of new COVID-19 data, a new projected date for hybrid reopening brings hope after a year of distance learning.
In a message sent out on Feb. 25, the Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) announced a new date for hybrid reopening in mid-March as Contra Costa County quickly approaches red-tier status.
The district previously projected to be in the red tier by Feb. 13 and reach red tier status by Feb. 23, already meeting the red tier requirements with a testing positivity rate of less than four percent and a submitted target equity plan of less than eight percent.
However, by Feb. 17, the county still had a case rate of 15.5 per day per 100,000, going over the red tier requirement of a case rate of seven or less and prolonging the return to distance learning.
The district now projects a case rate of seven cases per day per 100,000 by March 9, which will give the county red tier status.
Additionally, the District faced several developments in setting the definitive date for a return to hybrid learning on March 16.
“As many of you know, [the district has] been strongly advocating for the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to eliminate the required five-day waiting period after reaching the Red Tier. We were pleased to receive word Monday night of a modification to the CDPH guidance for schools which removes the additional five-day wait. With our current projections, we would shift to our hybrid and remote schedules on March 16,” Associate Superintendent Aida Glimme said in an email to teachers.
The district developed a new timeline leading up to the projected start of hybrid learning. From March 9 to March 12, students will be in asynchronous learning while in-person student orientations for COVID-19 safety take place at the school sites.
During this week of asynchronous instruction, Acalanes will have teacher development days on March 9 and March 10 with four asynchronous school days in between. In this period, two of the four asynchronous days will consist of COVID-19 safety training for the hybrid model, and the district will reserve the last two asynchronous days for students’ regular classes.
The limited amount of time allotted for regular classes throughout the week before hybrid learning upsets many students who find it difficult to learn asynchronously. Additionally, this schedule particularly limits Advanced Placement (AP) classes before their testing season, which many students feel nervous about.
“I find it very hard to work asynchronously without direct lessons for my teachers… I thought understanding what you learned that day [asynchronously] could be quite difficult… [It will be a big impact] especially [for] the AP classes because they have to learn a certain amount of material before the AP exam and we need class time to do that,” sophomore Nia Jeyakrishnan said.
Some students point out that the fast-approaching return to in-person classes may shock students who grew accustomed to the patterns of online learning over the past year.
“[The district has] to keep in mind that [students] have not been in school for almost a year and it’s a totally different scenario. So I feel like the District should be more lenient about test-taking and other requirements [when we go] back to school because we’ve adjusted to this online system and now we have to go back and adjust more to hybrid and online, so it’s a whole different [situation],” junior Brooke Palma said.
Students also worry about hybrid learning beginning two weeks before Spring Break, which may lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases if people travel throughout the holiday and return to hybrid learning.
“Considering how [COVID-19] cases skyrocketed back in November with Thanksgiving Break and again… after winter break in December, I think it’s unsafe to go back to school right before spring break… If students and staff go partying or on vacation and go see family and friends during break and then just come back to school without getting tested or without quarantine it basically guarantees the fact that the risk factor of going to school is a lot higher than it should be,” sophomore Jou Yoshida said.
Regardless of these challenges, many students hope to adjust to school through hybrid learning as they did at the beginning of the school year with distance learning.
“I think it’s going to be very interesting how people adjust to that back and forth rhythm of hybrid. I definitely think it’s going to be a lot harder, but just like how we had to get a system down for online school, we have to get the system down for hybrid learning. And my only concern is that people are just going to be totally mixed up and it’s going to just be a whole different thing. But then again, everyone needs to get the routine down for everything,” Palma said.