Everything surrounding the hybrid model has been very controversial, but what’s the general consensus? In this edition of the Bronco Bulletin we break down how the hybrid model is impacting each grade level and what they think of it.
A History Lesson
Some of us haven’t had a lesson on campus in over a year. Those are the Cohort C students, who’ve chosen to remain at home for the remainder of the school year. The other cohorts, A & B (sidenote: are there still cohorts A and B? We merged them, but C is still called C…), had returned in-person learning in March, just over the one year mark. With a semester and a half of the year already finished, some argued there wasn’t much sense to go back and adjust, potentially putting grades, and mental or physical health, on the line. For those of us that did go back, it has been a wild time. What began as two days a week in person (with two on zoom), has now morphed into four.
Why is student consensus important?
Following a highly controversial year, I would expect more popular moves in 2021. If the district does this semester what it did last semester, and gives us survey after survey about the future of the school, one would expect next year to look more similar to four semesters ago then the last three. Given that parents, who would likely feel the same way as their children, and money, are on the line, the district and surrounding districts are likely to give in to popular demand, especially with the high vaccination rates and low contraction rates for the virus.
Student consensus also has the potential to tell us whether or not there is a need or demand for a Cohort C as we call it now. We can imagine that some students will want to stay at home, but determining how much could impact what next year will look like. Keep in mind, there’s a million perspectives and a million biases at play, but that’s human. I, for example, am going to be a senior next year. For reference, my only full, normal year of high school was freshman year, both unhelpful and unsatisfactory for my future. I want to have a “normal” senior year, at least as normal as possible, especially with the schedule I chose. For the current sophomores, they know their junior year is coming up, and that’s super important. Current freshmen probably just want to go to school and have a real highschool experience.
To collect data, I did two things: a simple question and answer, and then further interviews with a select few to gather the consensus of the school as a whole, and per demographic. Please keep in mind that I’m operating under a small sample size, but I don’t expect my data to be wildly inaccurate.
First, the poll. The question was “Rate the new cohort/hybrid system on a scale of 1-10”, with a slider bar illustrating 1, 5, and 10 for ease of the interviewees. The general average was about a 5 or 6 out of 10. The lowest was about at a full 0/10, and the highest being a full 10/10. I reached out to that student, both curious, flabbergasted, and expecting it to be satire, but Pauline Arnot, class of 21 and Cohort C, explained her choice very well. Pauline illustrated what I’d find to be a common theme amongst the Cohort C students, explaining her lack of stress, but increase in free time, giving her the ability to exercise, and walk her dogs in the morning. She appreciates this extra time, time that she wouldn’t have if she was “getting up at 7 or earlier.”
Moving on from the simpler poll, and moving on to the more thorough, private interviews. First, I heard from another Senior, Cade DePeel. Cade is a senior from Cohort A, which brings its own views alone, but he’s also been one of the few sent home due to a COVID exposure. DePeel says, “To be frank, I think it’s possibly one of the worst approaches for hybrid learning, not for it being four days of the week but because of the new stapled on policies that come with it. This four day model not only combines both Cohort A and B to widen class sizes, but also minimizes how much social distancing is possible.” (Cade DePeel, Senior) DePeel continued, criticizing the district’s choice to combine cohorts so soon which has led to an increase in student exposures. At the end of the interview, Cade explained that he’s not against hybrid learning. Again, he chose Cohort A, and he went on to say that he was a fan of the previous two day a week model. An interesting perspective, that he’s likely not alone in having. Going back to my interview with Pauline Arnot, she expresses similar concerns with contracting the virus, but her choice to remain at home reflects her concerns.
I spoke to two juniors, Brian Coker and Emily Candela both in Cohort C. Emily has her views very well thought out, and is honestly proud of her choice. She explained, once again, an appreciation for the later start time, at 12:35. She had concerns, similar to Pauline, concerns of health and stress. Emily is aware of the main issue with Cohort C, the discrepancies in education. Although she feels confident in the choices she made for her health and family, she is frustrated with the fact that she knows her teachers are inable of providing the same lessons and education; she understands why, but it’s also a concern she thinks could have been avoided considering she stayed home for safety. In speaking with Brian Coker, I had kind of a realization; in my interviews, I was asking how the interviewee thought about the current model compared to the 2 days-a-week and the complete distance. Coker offered a third view that remained out of my sight for quite some time. He rejected all three of those options, and instead reminded me of what school was like at the end of last year, with optional videos instead of mandated cohorts, the schedule was different too. It harkens back to his choice to remain at home- self control. He likes being able to do what he wants with his time in the morning, and it allows him to be more free if he just stays at home those three hours, and we can all agree that the end of last year felt like the wild west in terms of the school’s grip on us. In my opinion, as a Cohort B junior, I honestly sway all ways. I think there’s issues with the system, but I also think that this is the best possible thing we’ve seen so far. Sure, I miss my mornings to sleep in, but I also like having the entire day after 11 to do whatever I may want to do, instead of having a free morning and bunkering down. I miss my small class sizes, not for any serious reason besides more one on one time with teachers; some of my classes have more than doubled, that puts a strain on everyone in the classroom. But I digress, as there’s larger issues at hand and I’m lucky that the system and my cohort worked out to be the best choice for me.
I was able to get a few words from Sophomore and Cohort A student, as well as fellow Bronco Bulletin writer Eddie Wokas. Eddie is an interesting character: charismatic, social, but also intelligent and patient. I just had to have his opinion. Eddie shares similar issues with educational deficits; he agrees that it’s a good way to start a return to normalcy, but he also is aware that, unless your zooms were consistently 90 minutes long, you were going to be missing a substantial amount of the curriculum, which has advantages and disadvantages. Wokas cites his own growth and his peers’ growth while having 90 minute classes compared to our current 50 minute classes, and, to him, the distance learning model seemed better, in theory. Wokas goes on to say that the current model works the best for most people; students with jobs and extracurriculars are able to devote more time to those, and teachers have to focus on less lessons a week. While we may be doing and learning less, it is May already, the year is practically done whether we want it to be or not.
What have we learned
In short, we learned nothing. We learned people are complicated, and will choose what fits them the best. But in doing that, we learn subtle nuances; not one of my Cohort C interviewees cited less work, or cheating, as a reason to stay home - it was always safety, stress, and time management. On the other hand, from people in school, we know that they ultimately want to be on campus, going to classes, but they are also the ones that know what needs to be done, and that’s something our peers in Cohort C have no experience to reflect on. Of course, that’s not to say that staying at home has been better or worse for students.
So in effect, if you’re willing and able to look past the objective statements and think about what everything means, we know what next year will be like. We may not know the exact Cohort situation, but, just as we did last semester and the semester before that, our voices can and will be heard, solutions will be made, new problems will arise; such is life.
The district and the school have already sent out a survey. Please take it, please speak your mind. They may not actually read your responses in particular, but they won’t have the ability to if you don’t fill it out in the first place. Next year may depend on it.