Los Al Unified opts to stay in hybrid learning for now

Plans for full-time instruction in 2021-22 school year

File photo

After getting feedback from families and staff, the Los Alamitos Unified School District has decided to stay in a hybrid learning model at its nine campuses for the remainder of the current school year which ends in June.

Full-time instruction is planned for the next academic year which begins in August.

“We are pleased to announce our plan is to resume a full-day, traditional in-person instructional model at all elementary, middle and high schools for the 2021-22 school year,” LAUSD Superintendent Dr. Andrew Pulver wrote in a message emailed to families and staff on Tuesday.

Last week LAUSD sent a survey to staff as well as families with students currently attending classes part-time on campus. Surveys do not appear to have gone out to families with students enrolled in the virtual-only learning program, LosAl@Home.

The surveys asked respondents to pick between staying in the current hybrid model for in-person instruction, where half of a class is on campus around three hours at least four days a week, or shift to a model where all students would attend school together five days a week for a minimum of four hours each day.

In Tuesday’s email, Dr. Pulver said that approximately two-thirds of the hybrid families responded to the survey. More than 65% of those responses showed a desire to shift to an extended school day starting in late April or early May for the last few weeks of school.

But more than 1,200 families said they’d prefer to stay in the hybrid model “due to the impact another change would have on their family” as it would disrupt work, drop-off and pick-up schedules.

“Many of these families reached out stating that as much as they would welcome additional in-person instructional opportunities, any change this late in the school year would create a significant hardship for their family,” Dr. Pulver wrote.

“While our goal is to serve the diverse needs of our families, the decision on how we best meet competing and compelling needs makes any decision more complex and nuanced,” he wrote.

The surveys came after the California Department of Public Health relaxed some COVID-19 guidelines for schools. It now says students can sit three feet apart instead of six feet as long as other safety measures, such as proper mask usage and ventilation, are implemented.

In its message to parents last week, LAUSD wrote: “While the vast majority of students may be distanced 3-feet apart or more, some students could be spaced less than 3-feet.”

Dr. Pulver explained the new guidance and the extended schedule during the LAUSD Board of Education meeting on March 23.

Online Posts Reveal Parents’ Feelings

After getting the survey last week, parents reacted on social media about the schedule change.

“I’m hoping we stay hybrid,” read one post in an LAUSD parents group on Facebook. “I would much rather have my child get 3 hours of instruction in a class of 15 than 4 hours in a class of 30. This new scenario is not full time. It’s just another form of hybrid,” the post continued.

“What’s the point to create chaos for 6 weeks?” read another.  “Totally!! Seems crazy to me. Let’s just ride it out and go back full time next year,” one person posted in agreement.

Other parents welcomed a schedule change this year.

“Ready for the five days and four hours. It’s not 100% but it’s something,” wrote one person and added, “Definitely time for those kids who aren’t thriving in hybrid to have their needs acknowledged and addressed.”

Another post read: “It may be 4 or so hours, but it will be greatly improved as to being able to get all their classes and more instructional time, more class work and getting to be with their peers. They help each other a lot and miss their friends in other cohorts.”

In his email sent Tuesday, Dr. Pulver emphasized the progress the District is making during the pandemic as it “takes more steps toward normalcy in ways we have not seen for more than a year.”

He noted that more than 75% of LAUSD teachers and staff report already being vaccinated, all schools are planning for in-person end-of-year activities and that in-person summer school will be offered.

“This is an extraordinary community of students, teachers, support staff, administrators and families who have worked together to ensure that our students’ ongoing educational needs are met at the highest levels, and we can all take pride in what is being accomplished,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, other school districts in Orange County are shifting to a traditional schedule sooner rather than later.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District announced that on April 21, its elementary schools will return to the schedule that was in place prior to COVID. The district wrote its schools would continue to adhere to CDPH guidelines and noted efforts would be made to “maintain six feet but no less than 4 feet” of distance between student desks and chairs.

In the coming weeks Ocean View Unified School District is bringing its elementary students back on campus for instruction five days a week with plans to transition to a full-day schedule in May.

But not every school district is shifting. Last week Santa Ana Unified School District decided to remain in distance learning for the remainder of this school year.