UCS announces hybrid learning plan

In-person learning will resume following the announcement of a hybrid return to school


UCS releases the Hybrid Learning fact sheet, answering frequently asked questions for students and parents. “Together, we are ready to take the next step of transitioning to in-person learning,” Interim Superintendent Robert Monroe said in a letter to the community. The hybrid learning system will begin the week of Nov. 9 for high school students.

Justice Seay, Editor

Utica Community Schools’ (UCS) high school students will shift to a hybrid learning system the week of Nov. 9 following an announcement made via email by Interim Superintendent Robert Monroe on Oct. 13.

“We took a measured approach that engaged parents, community members, health experts, teachers, staff members, and building leaders to create a shared direction with safety in the forefront. This return to school would be not possible without the literally tens of thousands of school community members working together to create new routines and connections that mitigate risk in this difficult environment,” Monroe said in his letter.

Following an abrupt end to the 2019-2020 school year on Mar. 13 due to COVID-19, the Board of Education voted for students to begin the 2020-2021 school year remotely, citing safety and budget factors. Now, after observing the openings and consequential intermittent closures of other schools and districts, UCS plans to return to in-person learning through a measured timeline, which allows administration to evaluate the health and safety of each grade level and ensure protection of students and staff members.

“This announcement continues the district’s methodical and phased approach to our students returning to face to face learning,” Principal Jared McEvoy said. “As we continue to plan for the safe return of our students, we are excited about seeing them in the hallways and classrooms once again.”

The hybrid learning system allows students to attend classes in-person part time, while maintaining a remote learning system on days not at the high school. This will achieve a 50 percent student capacity in the building. On face to face school days, students will be separated into five different lunch periods, as opposed to the standard three, to increase social distancing. Further details of the protocol and procedures, as well as the timeline for hybrid learning, will be announced at a later date by the district and McEvoy.

“With a global pandemic underway, the safety of your child and your child’s teacher is something we take seriously.  We pledged from the beginning that our first priority is the health and safety of all students, staff and families,” according to Monroe.

In addition to wearing masks while in school, with the exception for lunch, students will also be guided with directional arrows on the ground to keep the flow of hallway traffic moving in one direction. Despite these changes to the typical school day, the opportunity to return to in-person learning introduces a long-awaited sense of normalcy back into some students’ lives.

“I’m excited to be back with friends. I would rather do hybrid learning instead of remote because I’ll get to go to school and be with people, but also do online some days to get a break,” sophomore Olivia Sugameli said. “I’m looking forward to seeing everyone because it’s been so long, but I’m also nervous someone will get COVID-19 and we’ll have to shut down again. I’m also a bit nervous because I don’t know where my classes are, but overall I’m excited.”

However, some students have adjusted to remote learning and favor the online learning system.

“I don’t want to return to in-person learning. I have more time to do homework, I don’t need to worry about being late and having only three classes a day is very nice,” junior Anastasia Smetanina said. “I’m worried I’m not going to have time to sleep and drown in homework from all the AP classes.”

Despite reservations from some students, parents and teachers concerning safety and the details of the hybrid system that has yet to be unveiled, the district expresses confidence in their plan to return to school through a hybrid learning system.

“Over the past two weeks, there were eager teachers, building leaders and support staff members waiting at the school doors and bus stops to greet students. This was and is a moment to celebrate,” Monroe said. “Reopening is becoming a reality.  Thank you for your patience and support as we walk through this unique time. Working together, we are succeeding.”

For more information, the district refers the community to the Timeline for Hybrid In-Person Instruction and Hybrid Learning Fact Sheet