Kicking Off Hybrid Learning

Anvita Gurumurthy ‘23

Obviously, this school year is a little different. Instead of celebrating the first day of school by meeting new teachers and getting to know new classmates, students spent the day staring at little boxes on a screen. It hardly felt like attending Ridge High School.

 

However, 70% of the student population has the chance to truly begin school with the introduction of the Hybrid Learning Model. This is quite a significant turn of events, since school has been closed for the past seven months. But now, on assigned days of the week, these students have the opportunity to take part in in-person classes and see their teachers and friends face-to-face. 

 

This is certainly an exciting development for teachers and students alike– but what does it entail?

 

While hybrid students have returned to physical school, the ongoing pandemic has made it impossible for any sense of normalcy. 

 

Hybrid students start off their day by submitting a daily COVID screening form. This ensures that the in-person students are healthy and display no warning signs of the coronavirus. Then, the students check Genesis for their entrance passes, which they need in order to enter the building. Hybrid students are then admitted into the school promptly at 7:15 AM, at their assigned entrance. 

 

The day commences with strict social distancing rules and mask regulations as students move from period to period. Extra precautions are being taken to wipe down desks and chairs as the day goes on. Oftentimes, in-person class sizes are very small, sometimes reaching as little as three people, making the experience especially unique for these students. At the end of the day, students are dismissed in groups, in order to maintain social distancing while leaving the building. And after-school activities do not take place immediately after school, instead, they start from 2:30 PM and onwards. 

 

One of the most distinctive features of this model, compared to normal school, is the cohort system. All students have been divided into either Cohort A or Cohort B. Hybrid students that are part of Cohort A will attend school on Monday’s and Tuesday’s, while students in Cohort B attend school on Thursday’s and Friday’s. On Monday’s, Tuesday’s, Thursday’s, and Friday’s, hybrid students follow the same timetable as virtual students, and when it is not their cohort’s assigned day, hybrid students stay home and stick to the same routine as virtual students. However, on Wednesdays, the entire student body remains at home. 

 

Clearly, the hybrid schooling system is new and unfamiliar for everyone involved. Ridge students, in particular, have some mixed feelings about it. 

 

Kira Chard-Cunion ‘23, who recently began hybrid schooling, believes that school is “definitely different”. She remarks that although “it’s nice being able to meet our teachers and see people, being home half the time is also nice because we have more free time”. Another hybrid student has said that it is a big change for her, going from no school for almost seven months, then having to adjust back to school, all of a sudden. She thinks the return was a bit confusing, but it was easy to get into a routine.

 

While the beginning of hybrid school has the biggest impact on students who actually take part in it, the approximate 30% of students who opted for all-virtual school have also felt the effects. One virtual student observed that the “hybrid experience was practically the same as virtual”, with the same learning plan being implemented in both aspects. Another fully virtual student, Varsha Bhargava ‘23, notes a “slight disconnect” as a result of hybrid schooling. She has observed a “definite barrier between the in-person and virtual students, where class participation or the teacher’s attention tends to favor one side or the other”. However, she notes that the “quality of teaching has not changed much from fully virtual learning”, with the continued use of Zoom breakout rooms and screen-shared presentations.

it’s nice being able to meet our teachers and see people, being home half the time is also nice because we have more free time”

— Kira Chard-Cunion '23

As can be seen by student testimonials and the general response to the new learning model, the recent start of the unconventional Hybrid Learning Model has elicited contrasting reactions, overall. Despite it only being a few weeks since October 1, the first day of the new learning system, both virtual and in-person students have settled into a rhythm. The pandemic has given rise to a number of unprecedented and unique circumstances, hybrid school included; however, through the hardships it has also highlighted the resilience and adaptability of the Ridge High School community. Despite the highs and lows of hybrid schooling, which are sure to come up more in the following weeks, its existence is a sign that Ridge is moving back to normal life.