Height staff members were excited to welcome middle schoolers back to in-person learning in late October. Due to the abrupt closure of school buildings in mid-March, distance learning was the only option for Spring 2020 and for the first months of Fall 2020.
The teaching staff began strategizing for the return to in-person learning over the summer, when they planned for space limitations, made changes to the teachers’ and scholars’ schedules, and developed a hybrid approach that combined in-person and distance learning.
The newly instituted hybrid learning schedule consists of scholars in grades 5-6 having in-person learning on Monday and Wednesday and scholars in grades 7-8 having in-person learning on Tuesday and Thursday. When the scholars are not participating in in-person instruction, they work on asynchronous work from home. Additionally, every Friday, all scholars have a virtual school schedule.
On the asynchronous days, teachers plan the work they will give the scholars to keep them on grade level and aid other teachers with their in-person learning. The teachers also use the asynchronous days to provide instruction to students who chose to remain entirely virtual during this time.
“Our focus has been transitioning kids back to in-person learning, making school as cool as it was pre-COVID, and giving them a sense of normalcy” Instructional Dean Mariyam Salley shared.
One of the most significant transitions was eliminating the rotation of scholars throughout the day. Under the new plan, the teachers are now rotating in an effort to limit the movement of people throughout the building.
The transition to in-person learning has been a smooth process with relatively few kinks.
“The teachers are doing a good job of communicating with one another,” Salley said. “They are working so hard to cooperate and coordinate with one another.”
Students are also given stretch breaks throughout the day to make up for no longer rotating between classes. While scholars have to wear masks in the classroom, teachers have created designated safe spaces for those who need a quick mask break. In this area, they can safely take their mask off and have a five-minute break before resuming their studies.
Lunches take place outside, weather permitting, so that scholars can distance themselves, see their fellow peers, and get some fresh air.
Both the teachers and the scholars are excited about being back in the classroom and interacting in person.
“Students are excited to be back in person, and we are excited to have them back,” Salley said. “At the end of the day, as a teacher, you always want to see your kids in person, and you can best support them when they are in front of you.”
Salley hopes that the lessons learned throughout the COVID pandemic will continue impacting day to day life.
“As we return to a new kind of normal, I hope we can all be appreciative of our experiences in this past season. COVID pushed us to think in different ways, to be innovative, and to be more understanding of others’ situations.”
Middle school scholars have also begun returning to in-person learning at Tubman and Akili, and staff across the network are excited to welcome back their middle school students.