G-C changes high school to hybrid schedule


GREENFIELD — To mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19, Greenfield-Central High School will enact a hybrid schedule on Monday in which only half the student body will attend school on any given day.

Divided alphabetically by last name — A-K and L-Z — the two groups will follow a rolling two-days-on-site, two-days-virtual schedule until fall break starts Oct. 5.

That means students will attend school for two days, followed by two days of virtual learning from home, repeating the pattern for the next seven weeks.

The Greenfield-Central School Board unanimously approved the measure at a special meeting on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 13.

Superintendent Harold Olin said the change was necessary to reduce the number of students affected if a fellow student tests positive for COVID-19.

Per school policy, any students considered to have come into “close contact” with students or teachers who tests positive must self-quarantine at home for 14 days. Close contacts are considered anyone who has come within 6 feet of the infected person.

While Olin did not reveal how many people have been identified as close contacts of a high school student who was reported as testing positive on Aug. 7, he said the number was substantial enough to revisit the proximity students have to each other while at school.

The nature of the high school’s standard blue/gold alternating schedule, in addition to the architectural nature of the building, increased the number of people students have come in contact with on any given day, Olin said.

“I can say this (new hybrid schedule) would substantially decrease the number of people that would qualify as a close contact, and that fewer students would be quarantined,” he said.

The alphabetically-divided schedule was determined through a collaboration of school administrators and teachers who met this week to consider a variety of options.

Lori Katz, director of secondary education for Greenfield schools, said the change will no doubt be an adjustment for families. Special accommodations can be made for blended families and students with special needs, on a case-by-case basis, she said.

When divided alphabetically, the high school’s student body is split up almost equally, within just a couple of students, said Katz.

The changes are designed “to control the variables so we can continue to create a safe environment maintaining the academic integrity of Greenfield-Central High School. We want to implement all these safety measures while still holding the bar high for the expectations our community has of our teachers,” she said.

“Since we can’t make the classrooms bigger, we need to limit the number of bodies in each classroom,” she said.

Katz said the adjusted schedule will help teachers better prepare for classes that will take place both inside the school and online. Previously, teachers had little advance warning for how many students would be out each day.

“Due to quarantining, we have kids fluctuating in and out of the on-site and virtual environment, and due to the fluidity of that, some teachers are planning sometimes with very little notice. They might walk in and be missing three kids here, five kids there, and they might not get the chance to be teaching in both worlds simultaneously,” she said.

Under the new plan, teachers are being assigned electronic devices that were to help them communicate their lessons with students learning virtually from the home.

Russell Wiley, president of the Greenfield-Central Teachers Association, said the newly adjusted schedule seems like the best solution at this point in a challenging year.

“Nothing is ideal right now, but I think everybody is happy for the most part. “It seemed like it’s the best option,” said Wiley, who was part of the group debating the schedule changes. “It definitely will keep everybody separated by 8 to 10 feet, and will keep more people in school.”

As a history and social studies teacher at the high school, he’s seen firsthand how close students sit together in class. He said a schedule change was necessary to reduce the number of students who would miss school due to quarantining after each positive COVID-19 case.

A hybrid schedule will be more stressful on teachers, he said, since they’ll be required to prepare and teach both in class and online, but most teachers prefer the hybrid versus a totally virtual schedule.

Most teachers and parents see the value of having students back in the classroom, at least part time, said Wiley. “We’re just trying to keep everybody as safe as we can.”

High school Principal Jason Carey said the hybrid schedule will take some getting used to, but he hopes that parents understand the change was made with students’ health at top of mind.

“Safety is our number one priority, and this is the safest option we have for our kids and our staff right now,” he said.

“It will be a transition for sure, but we’re not going to stick our heads in the sand and pretend it wasn’t necessary.”

Olin said that while the adjusted schedule is mapped out through Fall Break, administrators and teachers would reassess the situation going into the second nine-week period.

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Eastern Hancock records its first two cases of COVID-19 infection. Page A7.