With the number of positive coronavirus cases continuing to trend upward, Williamson County Schools is leaving no stone unturned in order for educators, students and parents to cope.
Or as WCS Superintendent Jason Golden likes to put it, the district is always looking for another tool for the toolbox.
One of the tools he discussed at Thursday night’s lengthy school board work session was the concept of a hybrid plan. Several school districts across the state and elsewhere began using some variation of a hybrid approach in which half a school body would alternate attending school in person and the other would be remote.
WCS flirted with the idea back in the spring and over the summer as it became apparent the pandemic would seep into the start of the 2020-21 school year, but basically ruled against it. Now it’s back on the table, at least at the high school level.
“When these numbers started going up, we started reviewing everything we’ve been doing just to double-check ourselves,” Golden said during the session. “Is there some other tool we need in our toolbox? With these numbers going up and the potential need to send students fully remote over long periods of time, we asked ourselves again, ‘What about that middle ground of students taking turns?’
“Could it be of benefit to us to minimize the impact if we have to go long-term, and I’m especially thinking about January and February if this trend continues.
"We decided not to structure and stay that way [with a hybrid concept] when the school year started because of student learning on campus being a priority. But we worry that we might need that concept in our toolbox next semester.
“The disadvantage is students aren’t getting as much direction as they would on campus. But a potential advantage is, if they’re taking turns on campus, they could be socially distanced and might be able to minimize the number being quarantined.”
To adopt a hybrid approach for the second semester that begins in January, the district would want to do a one-week pilot at one of the high schools. That would possibly come between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and if successful, the plan could be rolled out to the other high schools across the district.
“If we do have a spread that continues to go around our community, the likelihood of students being quarantined due to classroom exposure would be minimized,” said Leigh Webb, assistant superintendent for Secondary Schools. “We do feel like this would be something that we would want to have in our toolbox before we come back for second semester so that we can keep some systematic instruction, especially some face to face instruction for our high school students.”
Click here to see the full video from Thursday night’s board session.