By Gabriella Gruber, Online Shadow Editor
// The Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) Governing Board unanimously voted on April 14 to continue with the current hybrid model for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year rather than combining cohorts and creating a new schedule for the last five weeks of school.
The Board met on Wednesday evening after many community members called for the Board to expand in-person instruction from two days to four days a week by combining cohorts A and B and keeping cohort C in distance learning.
Some community members emphasized that a full return to in-person learning would allow students to learn more than they are in the hybrid schedule.
“My concern is that equal education is an imperative, and the way kids are not being in school for four days a week has restricted that. We need kids to be in the school full time so they have that access to education that they’re supposed to be getting,” community member Wayne Hill said at the meeting.
Another community member pointed out that all staff members have received their COVID-19 vaccines, and people 16 years and older are now eligible to receive them as well.
“The [Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)] guidelines assume that no one has been vaccinated, but as far as I know, all the teachers have been vaccinated…[and] many of the juniors and seniors are already vaccinated. Three feet is adequately safe, and the CDC has also said that being in school is far preferable to remote learning,” community member Elizabeth Owens said at the meeting.
Many supporters of the proposed model change highlighted that other school districts have converted to a four-day in-person learning schedule, so they believed AUHSD should as well.
“It’s been done by quite a few other school districts, so I think it’s worth a shot. Both the [California Department of Public Health] and the CDC recommend increasing capacity, why not us? It’s worked in other places,” Hill said at the meeting.
While other school districts have made the schedule change, the Board pointed out that only 8 percent of students in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and 24 percent in the Pleasanton Unified School District are in-person, while AUHSD schools currently have an average of 60 percent. These smaller numbers made it easier for other districts to make the change.
Some Board members also questioned the practicality of implementing the new model before the end of the school year.
“If we could do [the transition to four days a week] without the issues, I’d be for it, but I think there are a lot of issues in terms of feasibility,” Governing Board Member Bob Hockett said at the meeting.
Opposers of the change emphasized that staying in hybrid learning would be less disruptive and provide more stability to the Acalanes community.
“The most grounding and supporting thing we can do for our students is to have a routine and consistent structure in order to give kids a sense of predictability and control. Changing their schedule now, with less than seven weeks left in the year, throws all that out the window,” science teacher Lori Tewksbury said at the meeting.
While the proposed instructional model change may allow students to learn better, the increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to having more students on-campus was of higher concern to many students.
“I think that [the change] would be great. It’s really hard to learn over Zoom when half the class is in person and it would be much easier if we combined the two cohorts, but I am concerned about COVID-19, and with a higher number of people, it would be more risky. I think it would be great if it is safe,” sophomore Nia Jeyakrishnan said.
Other students were happy with the Board’s decision and highlighted that being fully in-person would cause students who are in distance learning to be left out even more.
“I am happy about the district keeping hybrid schedule for the rest of the year. I think we have had enough changing in our routine for this year, especially with a huge shift back onto campus. I think we are still getting a benefit from being on-campus, but going back to full time would create an even greater disadvantage for those who are unable to return,” junior Stella Bobrowsky said.
Overall, the Acalanes community applauded students’ persistence during the pandemic.
“I admire how [students] show up every day whether on Zoom or in-person, not giving up,… determined to be students when a lot of people would have given up. They’re strong stock. Let’s give them time to just finish off this year without any increased pressure,” English 2, advanced French, and Drama 1 teacher Cathy Challacombe said at the meeting.