Rutherford County Schools is considering an option to begin the second semester using a hybrid model to reduce the number of students in school buildings at the same time, which will improve the ability to social distance and reduce the number of quarantines.
By doing so, the district aims to lessen how often schools are moved to all distance-learning because of the number of employees and students on quarantine.
No final decisions have been made, but a proposal will be presented to the Rutherford County Board of Education at its Jan. 5, 2021 meeting. The meeting begins at 5 p.m., is open to the public and will be broadcast live on YouTube.
“School districts across Tennessee and the nation are struggling to find a way to safely continue instruction while also balancing the load on teachers and parents,” Director of Schools Bill Spurlock said. “While no solution is perfect, this proposal will help us to increase social distancing by reducing the number of students at school each day.”
Director Spurlock added: “We are announcing this proposal now to give parents time to begin planning for a hybrid schedule, which is looking to be more and more necessary.”
Under the proposal, students in grades 7-12 would alternate in-person school days with asynchronous distance-learning days.
Students whose last names start with A-L would attend in-person on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, whereas students with last names beginning with M-Z would attend school in-person on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Schools would work with blended families who may have different last names to ensure all household children are in the same group.
The two groups would then alternative in-person instruction every other day, thereby reducing the number of students in a school on any given day.
The proposal calls for this hybrid system to be in place for four weeks (Jan. 11 through Feb. 5), and it will then be determined whether to continue the hybrid plan for another four weeks based on COVID-19 community data, such as spread rate and positivity rate.
There is also an important calendar change affecting the first week of January 2021.
Students will attend school through asynchronous distance-learning “Flex Days” on Jan. 5-8. Teachers will provide activities and assignments for students to complete at home on their own schedule on these days.
Following is a summary of key points with the proposal, which will continued to be refined and evaluated until the School Board meeting on Jan. 5, 2021.
• Distance learning will continue to be an option for all grades and parents can still make a selection for the second semester
• The hybrid plan only applies to grades 7-12 initially, although we also will look at a contingency of moving upper elementary grades to a hybrid approach if the need arises
• The groups will be divided by students with last names beginning with A-L and M-Z. Schools will work with blended families who may have different last names to ensure they are in the same alternating group.
• Distance-learners in grades 7-12 will follow the same hybrid schedule to aid teachers in preparing lessons and assignments
• Before the School Board meeting on Jan. 5, 2021, school district leaders will continue monitoring the status of COVID-19 in our community, including spread rate and positivity rate, both of which are currently very high.
• The calendar will be adjusted the first week of January 2021 to allow for planning and additional time after the holiday break to allow for an anticipated rise in quarantine situations.
• School employees will return Jan. 4 for training and planning, while students will attend school through asynchronous distance-learning “Flex Days” on Jan. 5-8. Asynchronous means that students can complete daily activities and assignments on their own schedule, thereby easing the burden parents’ work schedules.
• The hybrid plan would then begin Monday, Jan. 11 and continue through Friday, Feb. 5, which is four weeks. It will then be determined whether to continue the hybrid plan for another four weeks based on COVID-19 community data.
• Under this plan, there should be a larger number of substitute teachers available for elementary schools to assist if teachers at those schools are out for quarantine.
“We appreciate everything our employees, parents and students have been doing during these unprecedented times,” Director Spurlock said. “We know that many have been frustrated because of the effects of the pandemic on our way of life and our daily routines. The best way for our community to get through this pandemic is by finding solutions together for the sake of our students.”