Hybrid Learning is Underway


Sachin Fong

Botany students get their first in-person tour of Neuqua’s greenhouse.


District 204’s new hybrid schedule was finally put into use this past Tuesday, Jan. 26. Students joined faculty as they came into school for the first time this school year with the hybrid schedule going into effect. Students with last names A-L went through periods 1-4 from 7:25 am-12:20 pm in person for the first time since Mar. 13, 2020. After numerous date pushbacks, a rally to reopen and student eagerness to return rising, in-person learning finally happened. With only a fraction of the student body choosing to return and two groups of students going on separate days, students and teachers were greeted by a more empty than usual Neuqua Valley than many have come to know.
The new teaching model involves teaching the few students in class while also teaching the students who remained on Zoom. This certainly provides a new challenge, but one that teachers were prepared for.

“Part of teaching is you gotta react and you gotta react quickly,” David Johnston, a Neuqua Valley math teacher, answered when asked how different this experience has been.
Another debate and concern was the equity of attention and learning being provided to students in person vs. students on Zoom. Johnston said this in regards to the equity problem, “Nothing goes incredibly perfectly there… doing a split thing like that is always going to be goofy.”
Gillian Schneider, an English teacher, provided her thoughts on teaching and learning equity: “I’m going to try and make it even… If you’re at home, you’re gonna see our humor, I’m going to pull you into class.” The concern about equity will always be a problem during hybrid classes and these strange schooling times, but teachers are already providing new solutions.
The recent fire drill on Feb. 2nd also raised questions about the COVID guidelines. Although everyone had masks on, many students were surprised with the alarm. Once outside everyone grouped together, in contrast to the 6 feet apart rule of social distancing.
Two of the Echo’s staff writers teamed up to share their different experiences with the new hybrid model.

Ben – Sophomore

My first period class had only two students in attendance, myself included. My biggest class had seven students. The overall emptiness and mood of the school with everything that has happened the past year was surreal.
“I expected the weirdness,” said Schneider about the feeling of the first day back.
Weirdness is a great way to put it. Walking around the less-crowded hallways, scattered with people in my first year at the main building was definitely different than what I thought my first year at main campus would feel like. The class size was a significant difference. My friend and I laughed when we realized it would just be the two of us in class for the foreseeable future. Many friends I talked to said they were happy school was finally back, and I would have to agree. I’m so tired of sitting around in my house all day doing the same zoom calls, same home desk, same surroundings for the past 5 months. I’m excited to finally get some sort of normalcy and routine back. With regards to COVID-19 concerns held by many parents and students, I felt safe enough to choose going back to school. The pros outweigh the cons for me. I’m sure in a month in-person hybrid learning will feel like the same monotonous routine as normal school, but I’d rather get my normal monotonous routine back than sit online.

Olivia – Junior
In contrast to Ben, I chose to stay remote and not go back into the building. Almost everything felt the same except for that a few of my classmates from each class were at school. To be honest, I was very much impressed with how my teachers handled the situation and their attempts to teach both in-person and remote students. I also think challenges to maintain social distancing and provide quality education to both groups of students along with staff-members are still present. I was also surprised how easy it was to communicate with students that chose in-person and were not communicating using Zoom.
Other Neuqua Valley students shared how they felt about learning with the changes involving hybrid and remote students. For the first time this school year, students have opportunities to attend in-person learning or staying at home. The majority of students chose to stay at home and not attend in-person learning, including myself. Different styles of learning and environments create various experiences and opinions of students and staff.
Mikaela Thompson, a junior, stated “I do not mind remote, I like it better than in person because I can work at my own pace and manage my time better than if it were to be in person. Going in person also made me super anxious because of how many people were there and I can focus easier in remote places without the pressure of being around other people I’m not familiar with. I’m not sure what hybrid is like today because I’m staying remote but I’m not going to be going in person until it’s much safer with a vaccine because I don’t want to risk anything and get my family and friends sick.”
Overall, the experiences we all go through are steps toward changes in education. Whether it be remote learning or hybrid, education is continuously adjusting and adapting to what works best. The efforts put into making in-person learning are striking, and the safety of students and staff are of the utmost importance.