It’s back to hybrid model for WHS rest of school year

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story incorrectly reported Jen Carlon spoke at this meeting. She has reached out to indicate she was not present at the meeting and did not speak.

It’s one step forward, then one step back.

That’s not a dance step — It’s what the Wayland Board of Education had to do Monday night in returning the high school to the hybrid learning plan for the remainder of the academic year.

The board, under considerable pressure from the community, voted to move forward by having in-classroom instruction five days a week starting Feb. 15. Two months later, school officials received information from the Allegan County Health Department that showed the high school’s number of Covid viral cases have increased significantly.

So, with the recommendation from Superintendent Dr. Christina Hinds, board members reluctantly voted 6-0 for the high school to go back to the hybrid instructional model. This, just a week after voting April 10 to stick with in-person learning, despite health department recommendations and a request from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The hybrid divides the high school into two groups/ One attends classes in person Mondays and Thursdays, the other attends Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are set aside for all virtual.

None of the other schools in the district will make the switch, but will remain in classrooms five days a week.

WHS is having virtual learning Tuesday and Wednesday has been set aside as a teacher in-service, so Thursday the hybrid process will begin.

Hinds tried to offer some comforting words.

“It’s been hard (for students and staff), but everybody’s stepped up to get the job done,” the superintendent said.

She said one of the biggest reasons for going back to the hybrid is to reduce the numbers in quarantine.

“Our students and staff have lived with the unknown for so long,” she said. “This (hybrid) will improve consistency… We need to go back to something familiar for the rest of the school year.”

She acknowledged that some students will continue to suffer instruction time because of lack of Internet access. She said the school system will do everything possible to help.

Student Representative Andrew VanBaal provided perhaps some telling information about what went wrong after the high school went to all in-person.

“Moving back and forth between on line and in-person created inconsistency,” he said. He added that too many students did not observe mitigation protocol, particularly in wearing masks over their noses.

Though the school board was near unanimous, three of four people who spoke at the meeting continued to push for in-person learning.

Bret Butler of Dorr, a frequent critic, decried the influence of politics on the pandemic health issue, but told the board not to follow the advice of an unelected national health leader, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Sue Britten, who indicated she has a special needs grandchild at home, opined, “They can’t go to school, yet they’re still getting Covid.”

Another woman said, “The politics of Covid needs to be removed from our schools. Our kids need to be in school full time. We need to get off the roller coaster of fear.”

But Jennifer Smith said, “I hope the school board will put us into virtual for two weeks and then hybrid for the rest of the year.”

In other business at Monday night’s meeting, the school board:

  • Agreed to borrow $2.5 million, down from more than $3 million reported earlier, an annual event to handle customary cash flow problems at this time of year.
  • Approved a three-year contract with Republic for handling waste, with options for two, one-year renewals.
  • Was told by Assistant Supt. for Instruction Theresa Fulk that summer school this year might be increased to five days a week for eight weeks.
  • Learned that a new board policy suggests two student representatives rather than one, a junior and a senior. Van Baal was pinch hitting in that role Monday for Hayley Jasinski, who had a soccer game.
  • Approved use of school buses for the annual grad bash next month.

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