Hybrid learning plans have been a major subject of discussion since Berkeley Unified School District’s (BUSD) announcement that schools would return to hybrid instruction this spring, once teachers are vaccinated. With BUSD’s elementary schools currently in the process of returning to a full five-day-a-week schedule, the focus is now on secondary schools, including Berkeley High School (BHS).
BUSD and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT) have now reached an agreement on a hybrid plan for both middle schools and high schools, consisting of a generally similar distance learning schedule, in addition to new optional in-person class sessions after school four days a week.
This hybrid schedule will begin on April 11 for ninth graders, giving them two weeks of optional in-person classes during the duration of Term 7, and April 19 for other grades, giving them one week.
BHS will continue with normal distance learning in the mornings, but shift the schedule up by 20 minutes, with first period beginning at 8:55 AM rather than 9:15 AM, and ten minute breaks between all three classes. Lunch has been moved from between the second and third periods of the day to after the third, which means that distance learning classes will now end at 12:15 PM.
After lunch, in-person classes begin. Classes will be held at BHS from 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, with a check-in period for students 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM. These classes will be entirely optional, and likely geared towards students who have been struggling during distance learning, either academically or socially.
Which students will be invited back differs between terms, with teachers inviting back one stable group of students for Term 7, and as many as they would like for Term 8. Teachers are encouraged to invite back struggling students, but for Term 8 all students will have the option to return. Students will be invited individually to in-person Term 7 classes, but for Term 8 will return through a school-wide enrollment survey (available in both English and Spanish).
In addition, teachers will be divided into either “A teachers” or “B teachers,” depending on the location of their classroom on campus. A teachers will hold in-person classes Monday and Tuesday, and B teachers Thursday and Friday.
While there is no limit on how many cohorts teachers can be a part of, they are required to be in two (with exceptions based on the amount of classes teachers have), and will be compensated for any additional cohorts of classes or extracurriculars. Students, on the other hand, can participate in two to three cohorts, including extracurriculars.
Various safety precautions will be in place in accordance with local health guidelines and previously established agreements between BFT and BUSD. Although all teachers will be fully vaccinated, they will be tested for COVID-19 weekly. Students will also be required to maintain 3-6 feet of social distance, and wear masks at all times.
Different teachers have different plans for these cohorts, but they are intended to be entirely supplementary to distance learning.
Hasmig Minassian, a Universal Ninth Grade (U9) teacher, hopes to continue the community building she has been doing during Phase 1 (where teachers have returned on a volunteer basis) as well as provide additional academic support.
Minassian is also extremely excited to return to full hybrid learning. “The more time we can return in person with students while not disrupting the current distance learning schedule, the better,” said Minassian.
While most teachers are looking forward to the return, some are also apprehensive, citing health or organizational concerns. Dance teacher Dawn Williams, for example, is concerned about her lengthy commute to work, and planning socially distanced dance classes. Film and World of Media Teacher Amanda Marini does not feel fully informed about the plan, but also sees the value of even a small-scale return.
Marini likened beginning hybrid learning this spring to last spring’s distance learning at BHS, in that they can both inform a more fully fleshed out schedule for the fall. “I think there is a lot of clamor among teachers in terms of would our energy be better invested in coming up with a solid plan for next year? I think at the same time there’s a lot of thoughts like ‘let’s do something this year, something small’ just to break the ice on trying somethings so that we have something to learn from,” said Marini.