‘Stop!’ Parents Group Push School Committee To Halt High School Hybrid Model

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A group of parents of Belmont High School students is trying to slam the brakes on the transition from remote to hybrid learning just two days before it is to occur.

The hastedly assembled group will present the results of a survey they created to the Belmont School Committee at its Tuesday, Oct. 20 meeting showing overwhelming opposition to the committee’s vote last week to move high school students into a hybrid instructional model.

In a statement that is accompanying the survey, the group – self described as “Concerned Parents” – says the upshot of the results is ‘[t]he community, that elected you to represent their interests, has spoken loud and clear – stop the move to this model of hybrid for our High School students.”

“We are providing you with the voice of the community who wants to work together to help pave a path forward. We are asking the school administration to take this feedback into serious consideration and reshape their approach,” the parents group stated.

The group’s objective is for the school committee to nullify its earlier vote and return students to the current remote model while creating an ad hoc partnership of parents and the district administration to return back to square one and reconstruct the hybrid model from scratch in the matter of weeks.

“Our goal is to provide insights and ideas to work with the school committee and the administration on paving a path forward, together with the community. We want to make this work and support our students, teachers and school administrators in this unprecedented time,” says the parent’s statement.

The statement’s signatories include Charlie Conroy, Wendy Conroy, Heather Barr, Christa Bauge, Rachel Bruno, David Palmer, Heather Rubeski and Clare Crawford.

The numbers from polls speak volumes, according to the parents: 88 percent of more than 600 respondants do not support the proposed hybrid model for the High School, and a near equal 87 percent are asking the School Committee to nullify their earlier vote and return to a remote model.

Part of the survey has also been dedicated to the views of students which the group contends is a “critical component that has been missing from this discussion so far.” More than 35 percent of survey respondents “overwhelmingly reject this model of [h]ybrid also,” reads the statement.

The parents group is laying forth two “requests” before the six member School Committee and the district administration:

  • Present the survey results to the School Committee on Tuesday [Oct. 20], “so the voice of the community, including the students at BHS, can be heard and be part of the public record.”
  • The School Committee will acknowledge the results at its Oct. 20 meeting and in a formal vote succeed to the group’s belief that “at this time, it is necessary to pause the transition to Hybrid until a better plan can be determined.”

The School Committee voted 5-1, to begin the hybrid instruction model on Thursday, Oct. 22. During the discussion before the vote, nearly all the members agreed that the approved hybrid plan was lacking in student instructional time.

Yet the committee members acknowledged at the Oct. 13 meeting there is an insufficiant number of personnel and staff needed to revamp or rebuild a new hybrid plan in the next few weeks. In addition, the district faces pressure from the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to begin in-school learning.

Rather than start over, Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan suggested the high school continues into the hybrid while collecting feedback and suggestions from educators, students and parents. That information would then be the foundation for alterations to the plan after the completion of the first two terms of the school year early in the new year.

The parents group also started its own communications with DESE officials to reaffirm long-standing department policy that while the state can “strongly recommends the implementation of an in-person model of instruction” a move from remote to hybrid models “is ultimately a local decision.”

“Given there is no mandate to move to a hybrid model, the fact that DESE has highlighted that our local school committee has the authority to make this choice, and the fact that our survey shows there is not community support for a transition to the proposed Belmont High School hybrid model, we are highlighting that the school committee has the authority, responsibility and community support to stop this move now,” said the group.

The school committee should act quickly and decisively in this regard and stop the transition to Hybrid for the High school that is scheduled for October 22nd. We have collected valuable community comments about what is expected in a Hybrid mode for the High School.

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Comments

  1. Jamal Carlos Saeh says

    There’s only one mandate: improve the hybrid system.

    How we got here is telling. After weeks of preparing for the hybrid model, we ended up with one that is rejected by >80% of kids, parents, and the community. So what gives us more confidence, what are we doing differently, that more time will give us a better hybrid?

    The admin has advocated that we MUST start in hybrid to operational use it. Some have advocated that it allows us to perfect it an iron the kinks. Starting with an imperfect hybrid does exactly that. It allows us to iron the links and give us a go with live streaming and figure out how it fits in the ultimate solution (hybrid 2.0).

    So, yes to improved hybrid, no to stopping the hybrid now!

  2. says

    Our goal in setting up this survey was to gather data from the BHS community to accurately assess the community reaction to the BHS Hybrid plan. We wanted to hear from the students, and we wanted to offer a forum for community feedback to be heard by the School Committee.

    The survey results are summarized below (and at the following link https://tinyurl.com/BHS-survey-results). Full results, including all comments, have been provided to the School Committee; all comments were anonymized and email addresses were not included with the results provided. We will also be presenting the survey results at the Belmont School Committee meeting on Tuesday October 20, 2020.

    The survey generated 794 total responses over the course of 48 hours over the weekend of October 17-18, 2020. The respondents represented a broad cross-section of the BHS community, including 288 students (22% of all BHS students), 467 parents/guardians, and 39 community members. 537 survey respondents offered thoughtful, constructive feedback to the School Committee, and 435 provided email addresses in order to receive the survey results and to be able to remain engaged in the ongoing community discussion.

    The survey consisted of 2 questions:

    Question 1: “Under the current remote learning plan, most BHS students are receiving 180 minutes per week of teacher-led instruction. The approved hybrid will reduce this to 95 minutes (55 in person, 40 remote). In addition, the hybrid plan relies on significant self-directed learning (“asynchronous”).
    Do you support this hybrid plan?”
    Yes: 13.5%
    No: 86.5

    BHS Students: Yes 17%, No 83%
    Parents/Guardians: Yes 12%, No 88%
    Other community members: Yes 5%, No 95%

    Question 2: “Would you support the school committee voting to postpone the move to hybrid until the hybrid plan includes teacher-led instruction equivalent to the current remote model, addresses the impact on students due to potential changes in teacher availability, and provides full clarity regarding the remote-only option under the hybrid model.”
    Yes: 86.1%
    No: 13.9%

    BHS Students: Yes 87%, No 13%
    Parents/Guardians: Yes 85%, No 15%
    Other community members: Yes 97%, No 3%
    In addition, the survey contained an open response question: “If you had the opportunity to say something constructive at the school committee meeting about your current remote experience and/or your thoughts on the current hybrid model (or remote-only option under hybrid), what would you say?”

    The 537 thoughtful and constructive responses to this question provided valuable student and community feedback on the ongoing remote experience and the priorities and concerns regarding in-person learning models. All comments have been provided in full to the School Committee; all comments were anonymized and email addresses were not included with the results provided.

    The common themes in the responses:

    Academic concerns (largest percentage of comments)
    The remote experience has been better than expected for many BHS students. The success of the BHS remote model raises the bar for what a hybrid model needs to provide.
    Many feel the dramatically-reduced instruction time in the hybrid model negates much of the in-person benefit.
    Self-directed “asynchronous” learning is viewed as ineffective and inequitable.
    Many in the BHS community feel that live-streaming classes to all students not in the classroom would resolve many problems in the hybrid model.

    Student concerns:
    Many students are concerned that decreased teacher-led instruction will result in a lot more homework and will place the burden on them to independently make up all the missing curriculum.
    BHS seniors are concerned about schedule disruptions during the critical 1st academic quarter that is already stressful due to SATs and college applications. They would prefer any transition occur at a quarter boundary.
    Students feel significant stress regarding keeping their teachers and classes with the move to hybrid.

    Social Emotional:
    Face-time with teachers is very important, regardless of remote or hybrid.
    Many respondents feel that high school students have different social-emotional needs than younger students and that a different model for BHS from Chenery and elementary would be appropriate.

    Safety:
    Health and safety concerns for in-person learning are high in the BHS community.
    There is worry about timing the move to hybrid while COVID cases are rising.
    In-person learning without COVID testing is a strong concern.

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