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CMS and elementary schools present plans for partial reopenings


Published Oct. 25, 2020

Administrators from Carmel Middle School, River School and Tularcitos laid out their plans for a transition to a hybrid learning model Thursday evening in a virtual town hall. Everyone understood the concessions that were to be made during the coronavirus pandemic, but some parents raised questions and concerns that could not be answered with the incomplete plan presented.

The primary focus of the night was the distinction between distance learning and hybrid learning. All three schools would move forward with what is known as an ABABC hybrid model, where the student body is split in half by last name. Students in the A through K group attend campus on Mondays and Wednesday, and the L through Z groups attend Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students work independently in their off days, with Fridays hosting a mix of live and independent activities.

Carmel Middle School remains empty for the time being, but that could change with the introduction of a hybrid learning model. (Photo by Martin Sevcik)

Administrators indicated that in order for the schools to implement a hybrid learning model, Monterey County must improve its ranking in the state’s coronavirus tracking system from purple to red tier. In a county where cases continue to climb, it could be months before that goal is met.

Carmel High School was absent from the town hall, though the CHS Remote Schooling Guide 2020 can be found on their homepage, which features a similar hybrid model.

CUSD families have the option to commit to distance learning, where students would work from home throughout the week. At the elementary level, certain teachers will be assigned to synchronous, online-only instruction, allowing for a relatively similar experience to the past few months. At the middle school, however, that same promise could not be made.

“We will do everything in our power to make sure those students are working with a teacher, since that’s what we want to happen,” said CMS assistant principal Jen Kasper, but the details of that plan are dependent on how many students apply for distance learning.

This variability raised concerns among some CMS parents.

“We’re going to be asked to make a commitment to something that is a little bit nebulous,” parent and CHS teacher Barbara McBride said, “but you can’t tell us what the full program is until you have that commitment. That makes it a little bit tricky on the parent.”

Perhaps exacerbating their concerns was the finality of the decision before them.

“For right now, you need to look at this as a decision you’re making for the year,” Tularcitos principal Ryan Peterson said when asked about the potential for students to switch models. “It’s not a decision you can switch back and forth.”

Several parents also raised concerns about comments made the prior night at a CUSD school board meeting, where it was indicated that students in different models might not receive the same curriculum or operate at the same pace. Kasper dissuaded those concerns at CMS, but elementary school administrators indicated otherwise.

“When you cut down from five days a week of seeing your students to two days a week of them in front of you, there’s a need to look at your curriculum,” Peterson said. “There very well could be things that the distance learning kids get to that the hybrid kids don’t.” 

Another clear takeaway was the importance of safety precautions. All three sites will be performing on-site temperature checks as students arrive, with designated spaces for anyone who demonstrates symptoms on campus. They have also worked with external firms to make the campuses safer, redirecting the flow of traffic where necessary and reorganizing classrooms to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. Class sizes will be limited to nine students at CMS, and perhaps even fewer at the elementary schools.

“Students will be seated six feet apart at all times, and away from the teacher too,” River School principal Jay Marden explained. “Our school district is requiring that all students, kindergarten through fifth grade, wear masks at all times.” 

These plans are still subject to change, with parent feedback and survey results in the upcoming weeks potentially altering how the parallel learning models operate. A 128-page coronavirus plan and an FAQ from Marden and Peterson will be released in the near future.


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