Published Dec. 14, 2020
By SOPHIA BONE
Following COVID-19 surges in Monterey County, many Carmel Middle School parents have said they are reconsidering their response to the CMS hybrid survey, stating that their previous “yes” to having their children go to in-person schooling would now be a “no.”
In late October, 265 families selected that they would go back to CMS in person if allowed, 156 would stay at home and 150 did not mark an answer, either not returning the form or commenting that they did not have enough information.
CMS principal Dan Morgan says that there are no plans for a new survey until the school gets specific permission to reopen. Until then, they cannot make a definite plan.
Safety remains a major concern for families, especially given the current number of COVID-19 cases rising within the county, with the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services reporting 17,379 confirmed cases as of Sunday.
“What if one of them gets exposed to COVID-19,” asks Nawara Rodriguez, the mother of a CMS seventh grader. “What if they bring it home and then it affects all of us? We would all have to quarantine. As it is, we are all home and knowingly safe.”
Among health and safety concerns, the possible decrease in face-to-face instruction time in the hybrid model, where students attend school in-person two days a week and distance-learning the other three days of the school week, has become a common concern for families.
“It would go back to looking similar to the way it looked in the spring,” comments Lovina Worick, the mother of a current seventh grader, “in which students are not talking to a teacher or receiving enough instruction.”
Some families say three days of independent learning would also defeat the purpose of sending kids back, as they would have more time by themselves and no teacher checking in on them.
“My concern is that children won’t have discipline or be productive learners on their own,” notes Lauren Welch, the mother of a current seventh-grader.
After receiving this feedback, CMS has come up with two ideas for the days when students are not at school: Students will work asynchronously on assignments based on prior learning, or students will log in through a digital platform like Zoom where they can still work asynchronously.
“Drawbacks exist in both programs,” Morgan says. “The most obvious being a reduced curriculum in the first model and then potential learning loss and student management issues in the second as teachers attempt to teach two groups simultaneously.”
CMS seventh grade language arts teacher Darcey Rambach says that she wants to get back on campus, even if it means losing her daily contact with remote students.
“When it’s deemed safe to return to the classroom,” says Rambach, “I will be there.”
Parents are often choosing the in-person class options in order for their students to learn more effectively and to have more structure. In distance learning, parents say that their middle school students are trying to learn time management skills on the fly, and their grades are being impacted.
Morgan says that while this year 80% of students were on the honor roll in the first quarter as compared to last year’s 70%, there have also been more F’s on report cards this year than he has ever at CMS, with 36 in the first quarter this year and only 8 at the same time last year. Students who can stay engaged are thriving, while those who are disengaged are having difficulties.
“It has been hard for our child to stay focused on material and complete assignments when they aren’t prompted by teachers as often,” says Jay Phillips, the father of a sixth-grader. “We will take any in-person school we can get.”
The main reason parents are choosing for their children to go back in-person is simple: Kids are yearning to have more social time with their friends and peers and find themselves lonely at home.
“I picked for my daughter to go back to school because she begged me,” says Stacey Profeta, the mother of a current seventh grader. “She is just a very social creature. She misses her friends and school a lot.”
Morgan wants to make sure people know hybrid classes will definitely not be like normal school due to all the new safety precautions.
“There is so much that is restrictive in a hybrid environment that I am worried that people and students will get their hopes up and that the experience falls short of the expectations,” the principal says. “It will be more fun than doing school alone, but it will not be like normal.”
With less socialization in classes, CMS hopes to have small cohorts of students for social and emotional opportunities on Fridays. This would include sports conditioning, music programs and other interest-based activities. Another effort to help kids connect would be implementing a program called Character Strong to create a simulated “homeroom,” where students would discuss issues children now face.
The new structure and change of scenery that the hybrid plan could offer is also a reason parents are choosing to go on campus.
“We see the value of actually having a place to go for school,” says Cerry Rasmussen, mother of a sixth grader and an eighth grader, “as opposed to being home and in your room because that should be a place for more like resting and relaxing, but when it has to be everything it is too much.”
A main distraction parents have noticed in their children is talking with friends during class time. In distance learning, students find it easier to ignore teachers and material for time to talk with friends. At school, teachers can easily make sure that kids are paying attention and off their phones.
“They are thriving for that social interaction, but it is a huge distraction for their learning,” says Renee Campbell, the mother of a seventh grader, “and at least if they were at school, they would have that ability to socially interact between classes or at the end of class.”
While most parents had chosen for their child to attend in-person school if hybrid became available, the recent shelter-in-place order for the county and rise in COVID-19 cases will surely have an impact should another survey come out later on in the year.