Students, staff return to building under hybrid plan

The Bexley hybrid learning plan, which involves students coming to school for in-person learning twice a week and remaining home for distance learning for the remaining three, was implemented Monday, Sept. 21.

Students with last names beginning with A-La attend school in-person Mondays and Tuesdays, and students with last names starting with Le-Z attend in-person learning on Thursdays and Fridays, while Wednesday serves as a universal online work day so that the school can be cleaned.

Director of Operations Harley Williams, who was one of several administrators on the leadership team tasked with developing the hybrid model, said the leadership team is a group of administrators that deal with day-to-day affairs, such as creating the hybrid plan or dealing with policy issues. The team consists of himself, Principal Kristin Robbins, Assistant Principal Craig McMillen and several other administrators.

The leadership team went on a two-day retreat in June to brainstorm and create the most effective hybrid plan, Williams said. While he and the rest of the leadership team were influential during the process, the final decision was up to former Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller and the Bexley Board of Education.

“We discussed several different variations of ways that we could break up the number of students in the building at the same time,” Williams said. “Our biggest challenge was limiting the transmission of the virus through surfaces.”

One idea proposed for hybrid was that half of the students would attend school in the morning and the remaining would come in the afternoon, Williams said. Ultimately, the leadership team and Board settled on the A-day and B-day plan, as having all students in the school on any given day would not allow enough time for disinfection, Williams said.

Additional cleaning takes place each Wednesday as well as on the weekends using new disinfectant machines that use electrostatic technology that secrete pellets of disinfectant that kills the virus on surfaces, Williams explained. He said the machines take at least an hour to clean each room, so the custodial staff marks which rooms are “hybrid cleared” before changing shifts.

Junior Marissa Smith said she has mixed feelings about the hybrid plan, as she feels like she’s more productive working from home. She takes three AP classes and has found that taking difficult classes requires sound organizational skills that are difficult to execute in hybrid classes.

“There’s no point in going to school two days a week,” she said. “It raises chances of contracting the virus, and I can finish my work more comfortably and faster from my house.”

However, social studies teacher Michael Featherstone said he fully supports the district’s hybrid plan. He said that communicating with students in person is important because it allows students and teachers to establish social connections.

“The hardest thing for me with Zoom is making a joke and not knowing if my students were even paying attention,” he said.

Another issue Featherstone said he struggles with is fitting all of his courses’ information into three days with both groups of students, as teachers were required to have three Zoom classes a week during distance learning.

“I teach five AP classes, so I don’t really have the liberty of only teaching three days a week,” he said.

Regardless, Featherstone said he is optimistic and supportive of the district’s strategies so far.

“Everyone wants a return to normal, but it’s not going to be normal,” he said. “I like the way Bexley is doing it, and it’s nice to see students again.”

Williams explained that to eventually transition into full attendance, administration will work with Franklin County Public Health and Ohio State University analysts to determine the best decisions for the district as the year progresses, he said.

“We will continue to work with the officials at Franklin County Public Health to help us in making this determination, but I don’t see us returning to an all-in setting until we have a vaccine or our goals change,” Williams said.