Lenoir City Schools will return to in-person learning Monday after taking a hybrid approach for the first grading period.
The hybrid schedule, which consisted of alternating seventh- through 12th-graders learning in class and at home throughout the week, occurred after six individuals tested positive for COVID-19 at Lenoir City High School in August. Hybrid learning ended Friday.
Although there are no plans to resume this structure, Lenoir City Director of Schools Jeanne Barker said “everything’s on the table in these uncertain times.”
“We will look at whatever is an option to serve our students should the need arise. That’s not off of the table,” Barker said. “We don’t want to do that. We believe that the best opportunity for our students are face to face. That’s our first desire. From that we’ll just to look and see what comes up and how to respond appropriately.”
A hybrid schedule allowed for more spacing for students. Ending the approach taken after one grading period means there is higher chance of quarantine, Barker said. Safety measures are still being encouraged.
“We are asking all students, faculty and staff to wear masks unless they are in a class where social distancing is possible,” Chip Orr, LCHS principal, said in an email correspondence. “This will be determined by the teacher. Our cleaning procedures will remain the same as they are now. Our engineering class is making partitions for the lunch tables so that we can seat six to a table rather than four. This will allow us to serve all students in the cafeteria and commons. Before going to the hybrid schedule, some students were having to eat in the gym.”
LCHS has handled 24 cases for COVID-19 and quarantined 283 students, Orr said. Of that amount, 14 positives and 96 quarantined have come while using the hybrid schedule.
Lenoir City Intermediate/Middle School has only had three positive cases this year, Brandee Hoglund, LCIMS principal, said.
“It has been successful from the standpoint of limiting the number of students that have had to be quarantined,” Orr said. “However, it has been a challenge for many students from an academic perspective.”
He believes students struggling academically is one reason why the decision was made to come back.
“It will allow teachers to provide students with the feedback that they need to progress in their classes, and it will provide the students with more face time with their teachers. Both are critical,” Orr said.
Certain learning structures don’t work for everybody, Barker said.
“It did allow us to provide additional personal space at the high school, but we’re going to go back to having everybody on campus,” Barker said. “One of the reasons that we wanted to keep it until we finished a grading period was so that we could have some measure of where we were. We honestly have not seen a huge difference in contact tracing and that kind of thing, because students are together on weekends, they are together in the evenings and so that is what it is.”
Orr said the challenge has been getting students to complete assignments at home.
Teachers have also been “fatigued” alternating between in-person and virtual, Barker said.
“This year in general has been tough on our teachers,” Hoglund said in an email correspondence. “They are trying to not only teach virtually and in-person but also build their virtual content. The middle school is using our own curriculum for our virtual students not Florida Virtual.”
Despite the challenge, Orr commended teachers for their work.
“Our teachers have worked extremely hard during the hybrid schedule due to the fact that they have been serving students virtually and in person,” Orr said. “This has required them to prepare lessons for both groups so they are literally working twice as hard as they would have to normally. They have done an amazing job with it.”
Barker was pleased with how well the hybrid approach turned out.
“Our students need to be in school and need our teachers,” Hoglund said. “We are excited to have all of our students back full time.”