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Eastern Kentucky schools hope to avoid hybrid learning

Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News at 6
Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 5:34 PM EDT
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Schools in Eastern Kentucky continue to deal with quarantines and closures, while administrators make it clear that their primary goal is to have students in-person.

Educators largely agree, in-person learning is the best option for students. Staying in person is the challenge, but hybrid schedules may help.

“It’s a great tool to have in the toolbox if you absolutely need it,” said Harlan Independent Schools Superintendent, CD Morton, referring to part-time in-person, part-time virtual learning.

“Everything. Everything is better than 100 percent virtual. Everything,” he added.

The hybrid model does pose a burden on teachers as they need to keep track of students in different places, and at different stages of mastery with the material.

Married to a kindergarten teacher, Morton has seen both sides.

“Administratively, I got to try to manage that and then I got to hear first hand and see the implementation of that and the stress that comes with that,” he said.

Kentucky Department of Education officials, like Chief Digital Officer, Dr. Marty Park, recognize that hybrid may be necessary.

“It’s really just an opportunity to leverage some existing tools, if you will, for course structures,” said Dr. Park.

To that end, the department issued guidance to help school district and families that have already requested hybrid schedules and that take advantage of the unique performance-based attendance model some districts offer.

Department of Education officials hope that having options allow schools to choose the right COVID-19 mitigation strategies for themselves.

The opportunity that’s in front of us is to have the right tooling in place so that we can come in person,” said Dr. Park. “So that’s something that I think everybody’s after because we know that the more students are in person the better.”

Performance-based models do not apply to the majority of students, but are an option for school leaders.

While grateful to have the hybrid option, Morton does not want to see a return to the hybrid model.

”It would be the last tool that we would use,” he said. “We are 100 percent focused on remaining in-person.”

Morton added that each district in the state may find different approaches that work for the goal of keeping students in person.

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