Maggie Klaers

Discussion arise on increasing 50 percent capacity hybrid

Neighboring schools return

March 5, 2021

Park should integrate Cohorts A, B

With the return to hybrid at 50 percent capacity, the question of when normality will return becomes even more prevalent. While opposers of full-time in person learning say it is unsafe, science proves the contrary.

The Center For Disease Control (CDC) released its findings in a study conducted between the end of August and November Jan. 29. In this study, researchers looked at a rural school in Wisconsin and measured the number of reported cases from staff and students. They combined preventative measures like smaller class sizes, mask wearing and social distancing. Out of the combined student and staff population of 5,530, only 191 COVID-19 cases were identified. 

While this number might seem high, one thing that must be taken into account is that this community was at the peak of their outbreak and only seven of these cases were reportedly contracted from school. The research also found that students and staff were more likely to contract COVID-19 outside of school, where preventative measures like mask wearing and social distancing were not taken.

After looking at the facts, the conclusion is: it is safe to return to schools in-person because students have a lower risk of getting infected at school than other places in the community. When considering the precautions Park has taken to ensure students safety, transitioning to four days a week for all in-person students doesn’t seem to be that far away. 

This change does not mean the whole school. This means Cohorts A and B would be attending school in-person, but Cohort C would remain at home. Though the thought of fully returning to school might seem scary, it really wouldn’t be much of a change and could possibly benefit more students. 

Distance learning has either been extremely beneficial for students learning or extremely hard to manage. This option seems like the best plan because students who feel more comfortable in a distance learning format can stay home and get their education. Meanwhile, students who might be struggling to stay on task or get the help they need can come in and get the maximum time they need for help.

Other concerns community members have is compromising the health of older staff and how it will impact them, but there is a solution. Every week, more teachers at Park are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine which will continue to benefit our school as time goes on. Teachers are required to wear masks and face shields while teaching, and students are required to wear masks and socially distance. Staff and students are encouraged to self-screen prior to entering the building and seating charts are required for contact tracing. 

All of these mitigation strategies have worked well so far for our community and I anticipate that cases will continue to drop with the continuation of these practices. Other schools in Minnesota have already made their plan to go back at a larger capacity and Park would benefit from doing the same.

Returning fully will prioritize students who need extra support and ensure that students who are asking for help are not left behind. It may also ensure students are able to reconnect with peers and gain more social interaction, which is crucial for development and mental health.

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Increasing capacity shouldn’t be an option

Just recently, Park decided to start hybrid learning back up again after the first attempt failed in late October. They are now considering having both cohorts A and B combining after spring break.

The best idea would be to stay with the original plan of doing 50% capacity. Most students miss being in school, and by implementing 50% capacity it will benefit those who want to return to school, but also honor and respect the fact that we are in a pandemic.

With COVID-19 cases still rising especially in our county, we need to continue to practice social distancing as much as possible to try to bring the number of cases down. Additionally, I fear that the plan will fail again — as this time Park is proposing having both cohorts together. Not only that but even from home I have seen people not following protocol. 

On the first day of hybrid learning, I saw students not staying six feet apart and a teacher continuously coughing. If people aren’t able to simply stay six feet apart and stay at home if they are not feeling well, then how are people able to trust that it will happen with this increase of capacity? Having these issues and returning with both cohorts will surely bring a potential threat to students and staff. Staff needs to make sure that students are following the rules to ensure a smooth and safe process. If people aren’t doing their part, the plan is bound to fail. 

With people not following protocols and the obvious lack of consideration to rising cases, an increase in capacity shouldn’t even be a possibility. We have only been back in hybrid for a week. We should continue to do hybrid at 50% or less and observe for a little longer to see how it goes. Only then we should consider having both cohorts in the building. 

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