TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The Amphitheater Unified School District welcomed students back to a hybrid model of learning Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.
COVID-19 precaution signs, extra handwashing stations outside, spread out desks and designated lunch spots are just some of the precautions taken at Lulu Walker Elementary School. The second time the district is back in hybrid, things seemed to flow easily—everyone has been here before.
“It’s great to be here,” Vanessa Miller, a second-grade teacher at Lulu Walker, said. “It’s kind of like the fourth first day of school.”
Though, Miler’s class was smaller than usual.
Half the students who would attend in a normal year were spaced apart in their desks. The class played a distanced math game, everyone with their own set of cards, playing with a partner a desk away. It keeps her students apart but engaged.
It’s learning like this that could not happen virtually.
“We decided it’s best to get kids back in for their mental health, their emotional health and their academics,” said Dr. Roseanne Lopez, associate superintendent of elementary education for the district.
The district has switched back and forth with virtual and hybrid learning throughout the year. Now in hybrid, half of the students come on one day, the other on the next and everyone goes virtual on Wednesdays.
“This year is a year like no other. I think the two words that pop into my head are being flexible and adapting,” Miller said.
Desks are spread out, and even school pick up is socially distant.
The district says they surveyed families before making a decision on learning. They said 26 percent of families preferred a hybrid learning model, while 40 percent wanted full-time, in-person learning.
However, about 1,500 students are still enrolled in their online school. Lopez estimates just under 700 elementary-aged students are enrolled in their fully online school, there were none the year before.
“It’s never been that big,” Lopez said.
According to the same survey, more than 50 percent of district employees say they want to remain “remote by necessity.”
District leaders said they are paying close attention to the covid numbers and trends. According to the Arizona COVID-19 school benchmarks, the entire state should be in virtual learning. The district said attendance for the first day of returned hybrid learning was pretty typical.