Woodridge schools will continue hybrid model for 6-12 students

Buildings not able to accommodate 3-foot distancing; large majority of parents, staff and students favor status quo

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies

Woodridge school district students in grades 6-12 will continue attending classes in the hybrid model for the remainder of the school year.

The board of education on Wednesday unanimously accepted Superintendent Walter Davis' recommendation that middle and high school students continue in the hybrid format for the fourth quarter, which begins March 15.

The board also agreed to maintain the 6-foot distancing standard that it has had at all of its buildings throughout the school year.

Davis recommended maintaining the status quo based on the results of a survey of students, staff and parents, as well as an assessment of the available space in the two school buildings. Davis said he and his staff assessed whether the middle and high schools could have all hybrid students in the building at the same time and maintain a 3-foot distancing standard.

"We literally went in with tape measures and measured classrooms," said Davis.

Davis said the facility review determined the middle and high school buildings, with the current set-up and the schedule, cannot accommodate a 6-foot or a 3-foot distancing standard if all hybrid model students were in the buildings at the same time.

"We can't go all-in without putting kids in closer proximity against [Centers For Disease Control] recommendations," said Board member Jeff McHugh.

Davis added he would love to have students return, but stated, "the numbers just didn't work."

"If we can't make it work, who are we to put kids and staff at risk?" he asked.

At the middle and high school buildings, there are a total of 23 classrooms that cannot meet a 3-foot distancing standard. There are five more classrooms that would be "completely packed" at 3-foot distancing with no room for movement or visitors/guests, said Davis. In the cafeteria, students would be unmasked at 3-foot distancing for 30 minutes, which exceeds the CDC's 15-minute standard.

The survey of the three affected groups found that a large majority favored remaining in hybrid: 85.2% of district staff, 72.3% of students and 65.5% of parents said they would be either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" if the district remained in hybrid for the final quarter of the school year.

Davis said 57.7% of parents said they were "comfortable" or "very comfortable" with moving to an all-in model, but the data changed when that question was posed to staff and students. He said 53.7% of staff and 54% of students said they were "uncomfortable" or "very uncomfortable" with going to an all-in approach.

The superintendent reported 54.6% of parents said they were "comfortable" or "very comfortable" with their children attending in-person classes at a 3-foot distancing standard. Meanwhile 54.7% of staff and 60.8% of students said they would be "uncomfortable" or "very uncomfortable" with having in-person classes at 3-foot distancing.

There were 531 parents, 449 students and 108 staff members who responded to the district's one-week online survey.

Davis said the district would work on implementing measures to provide students with more structured access to teachers and more synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities.

Middle and high school students have been attending classes in the hybrid model for nearly the entire school year. They started the school year in hybrid, but all students switched to full remote learning from Dec. 1 through 18. When students returned on Jan. 4, students in grades 6-12 resumed the hybrid model and students in grades K-5 went back to the buildings five days a week. 

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@thebeaconjournal.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.