Hybrid Learning

Parker Announces New Schedule


Photo credit: Kate Tabor

A classroom set up for an in-person day of learning. Photo by Kate Tabor.

On January 8, Head of Upper School Justin Brandon sent an email to the entire Upper School and families outlining the return to school plan. The plan gives students the option to come to school for two half days every other week, or to remain remote. 

In this two week cycle, ninth grade will be the first grade brought back to the building beginning February 1. The grade will be split into two groups, having one group come to Parker on Monday and Tuesday morning to take three classes, and the other coming on Monday and Tuesday afternoon. The group that comes in the morning will have asynchronous classes in the afternoon, and likewise the students who come in the afternoon will have asynchronous classes in the morning. “There are a few features like that that are built in,” Middle and Upper School Director of Studies and member of the Return to Campus Committee Sven Carlsson said, “the idea was that we are going to build structures that limit the amount of screen time in a way that can still maximize learning.”

Twelfth grade will do the same on that Thursday and Friday, and that schedule will be repeated the following week, except tenth grade will come in on Monday and Tuesday while eleventh grade will come in on Thursday and Friday. 

Wednesdays will be treated as sort of a break day, with no academic classes meeting in the usual A through F periods. The day consists of PE, Student Government, flex office hours, flex club, advisory and graderoom. “A big idea was to build it in the middle of the week as a break,” Carlsson said, “so that you don’t have three sprint days back-to-back-to-back. If you put it in the middle, people are going Monday and Tuesday, they have a break, and they go Thursday and Friday.”

Many schools have listed having a day such as the planned Wednesday break as one of the top practices for schedules this year. “I’ve been to a couple of webinars and presentations from schools that have those schedules, and they talked about how their community appreciates that kind of break in the week,” Brandon said.

For students whose grade does not go into the building on a given week, they will be entirely remote, meeting with each class three times and having one class meeting per week designated as an office hours period. “I’m not concerned about the loss in educational value,” Upper School Mathematics Teacher Ethan Levine said. “I do agree that it is actually harder to do some things in whatever in-person environment we’re going to have than it would be to do them when everyone’s just on a zoom meeting. But it’s only a total of seven classes if we continue this the entire semester.”

Parker will be providing each student a packet containing COVID-19 PCR screening tests from SafeGuard Surveillance, LLC. Each student will bring their saliva sample to Parker on their given day. Students who’s grade is scheduled for in-person learning on Mondays and Tuesdays will need to submit their sample to Parker on the Friday or Saturday prior. For students who are in-person on Thursdays and Fridays, samples will need to be submitted on Tuesday or Wednesday of that week. 

If a student has positive screening results, the Nurse’s Office will contact them and provide the next steps.

According to Carlsson, Brandon showed the current plan to the Return to Campus Committee in November or December and some edits were made. This month, Brandon shared with faculty and some tweaks were made. “The schedule is being mutable,” Carlsson said, “it’s actually responding to the changes people are saying.”

Originally, the criticism they received from the remote learning schedule was a lack of class time. But after the hybrid schedule came out, the criticism shifted to wanting less screen time to alleviate screen fatigue. “The calls for more class time were not as loud as they once were,” Brandon said. After receiving faculty feedback, one of the changes in the new schedule was it dropped the fourth class meeting of the week and replaced it with office hours.

When creating the new schedule, there were a few goals that the committee felt had to be implemented. One of them was to get every student to meet with every class the days they are at Parker. “That was the biggest thing. In all of the schedules we looked at, not every kid would’ve met every single one of their teachers,” an unnamed member of the Return to Campus Committee said, “which felt like a waste of coming in at all.”

After looking at the return plans of schools across the city and country, Brandon says they learned the importance of monitoring screen time, and this became another goal because “zoom fatigue is something that we now see as a reality,” he said.

dThere has been controversy on the safety of returning to school, but according to Carlsson, another issue was, from a pedagogical standpoint, whether the hybrid learning plan would hinder education. Teachers have gone back and forth as to whether they believe this will help or hinder their teaching, and parents have been across the spectrum as to whether their child’s education would be better on this hybrid schedule or entirely remote. “The progressive calling of the school is the child and the needs of the child,” Carlsson said. “Even in the criticism I’ve heard, it’s coming from a standpoint of ‘what is the best for students.’ In that sense, we are trying to learn from the criticism and listen to it.”

As Carlsson said, this schedule is going to go through changes. It is not going to satisfy every student, teacher, or parent. There will be students who want to return to school in a more frequent form, and there will be students who want to return to school less than the current schedule. “I wanted to be on the Return to Campus Committee because I wanted to help give you all something to look forward to,” the unnamed member of the committee said, “but this isn’t it.”

Brandon is looking forward to potentially expanding the frequency of students attending classes in the building, but only in a safe manner. “I hope that this is the foundation for our return to the Upper School,” he said. “I hope we are able to expand but there are so many factors at play. But we need to start this process, which is this initial version of our schedule, and see how we do.”