Learning Models: Hybrid vs. Virtual
In order to adhere to social distancing guidelines, Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) has developed a learning approach that combines face-to-face and virtual learning—a hybrid learning model. The school division has drafted scheduling scenarios for returning to school that include in-person attendance, with social distancing as a key feature:
- In Stage 3, the division will offer face-to-face instruction two days per week for all students in Grades PK-3.
- In Stage 4, the division will offer face-to-face instruction four days per week for all elementary students and one or two days per week for all middle and high school students.
- Alternatively, in either stage, families may elect for their child to participate in a fully virtual learning model.
Stage 3 Hybrid Learning Model
In Stage 3, ACPS is able to offer a hybrid learning option to all students in Grades PK-3, including students in Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE). The Stage 3 hybrid plan includes two days per week of face-to-face instruction and three days per week of asynchronous, at-home learning. Half of the PK-3 students participating in the Stage 3 hybrid model will attend school in person on Mondays and Wednesdays, while the other half will attend school in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Stage 4 Hybrid Learning Model
In Stage 4, ACPS is able to offer face-to-face instruction to all elementary students Monday through Thursday. Students will be spaced out across the building in small groups of 8-15 students, depending on the size of the space they occupy. If a large space is used for the class (art room, music room, cafeteria, etc.), it may be possible to keep the entire class (20-22 students) together as one group while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Interaction among students will be limited to the children in their homeroom and no more than three adults. Students will eat in their classrooms, whether they pack their lunch and snack(s) or eat a meal prepared by the cafeteria. School breakfast may be served using a grab-and-go format as students enter the building; otherwise, meals prepared in the cafeteria will be delivered to the classroom. Weather permitting, students will take several outdoor breaks daily.
An elementary student’s school week would include instruction in all content areas, including “specials” (also called “extensions”), such as art, library, music, physical education, and school counseling. These lessons may be posted or sent to students as asynchronistic experiences, whereby students access the activity or lesson on their own. Any group movement in the halls would require students to wear masks and practice social distancing. Classroom routines will include social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands.
All students will participate in independent/asynchronous learning on Fridays. Fridays will provide teachers time for planning, family communications, and grade-level and department-level meetings.
In Stage 4, depending on the transportation needs of our students, ACPS will offer face-to-face learning either one or two days per week for middle and high school students. This hybrid learning model will provide students with face-to-face learning experiences as well as both synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning experiences. Monday through Thursday, students will attend classes in-person one day a week or two days a week using an alternating daily schedule. Fridays will be an asynchronous (independent) learning day for students that allows teachers to engage in planning, student and family communications, and grade-level and department-level meetings.
Middle and high school students will move between classes during the day. Students will practice social distancing in their classrooms and during any transitions throughout the day. We will stagger classroom changes, and hallways will clearly indicate one-way traffic flow whenever possible. Classroom routines will include social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands, and disinfection and cleaning will occur between classes. Students will eat lunch in their classrooms.
Families will have the option for students to receive 100% of their instruction virtually (online). This model involves four days per week of teacher-directed/synchronous instruction and one day per week of independent/asynchronous learning. New instructional content will be offered to all students; attendance will be required; and student work will be assessed. Students will interact synchronously (live, interactive, online) with their teachers Monday through Thursday and also will have designated independent work times for asynchronous learning (independent, without live interaction). Fridays will give teachers time for planning and also for small-group interventions conducted synchronously, as necessary. All students will participate in independent/asynchronous learning on Fridays.
Students taking courses through this full-time online model may have larger class sizes than their peers who are taking the same course in-person through the hybrid learning model. Specific schedules for online instruction will be finalized and communicated in mid-August 2020, as Return to School Intent Forms are collected and processed, allowing schools to assign students to specific classes.
To the extent possible, ACPS teachers will serve elementary students in a cohort model with other students from their school or across the division. Middle and high school teachers will support a combination of in-person and online learners using blended learning strategies and digital resources. Courses will be taught using online courseware, video conferencing tools, and digital curriculum resources, along with synchronous direct instruction and online support from an ACPS teacher. Detailed daily and weekly schedules will be available for all students by grade bands by mid-August 2020.
At the elementary level, ACPS staff will provide approximately 2-3 hours per day of direct, synchronous instruction (whole group, small group, and individual), depending on grade level. An elementary student’s school week would include instruction in all content areas, including “specials” (also called “extensions”), such as art, library, music, physical education, and lessons presented by the school counselor. The teacher(s) would be available periodically throughout the week for parent/guardian consultation during designated office hours. Students will have opportunities to participate in choice activities each day to practice skills and extend their learning away from a computer screen. ACPS staff also will provide specialized instruction, as needed, such as ESOL or special education services. The amount of special education service will be determined by IEP teams. Consideration will be given to individualized student needs.
Parents/Guardians may change their intent with notification to the school principal. Please note that it will take several weeks to shift students from one model to the other model, and in some cases, a teacher change will be involved. Also, it can take up to 15 days to add a child to a bus route when a family requests transportation after the start of the school year. (During the waiting period, parents/guardians will need to provide transportation.)
At the middle and high school levels, ACPS staff will provide approximately 3½ to 4 hours per day of direct, synchronous instruction, depending on the grade level and/or course. Schedules will vary depending on assigned courses and will align to the base school whenever possible.
A middle or high school student’s day would include instruction in four courses at a time. All courses necessary to fulfill Standards of Learning and graduation requirements are guaranteed for students. High school curriculum will vary based on course enrollment, with students having the opportunity to access core and elective courses necessary to fulfill graduation requirements. It is not certain that students will be able to participate in all courses they originally selected, including electives. Families should recognize that full-time online instruction may not be able to support some specialized programs and course offerings.
Specific course offerings will be dependent on matching student course requests to teacher availability. The division will expand online course offerings to fulfill all state requirements and adjust traditional service models for special education, ESOL, and advanced academic programs to accommodate the full-time virtual learning environment.
If parents/guardians opt for virtual learning, ACPS will attempt to accommodate elective classes and match students with their home school whenever possible. All students in virtual learning will still be eligible to participate in any offered extracurricular activities.
Due to the nature of CATEC classes and the guidance given by accrediting agencies, CATEC classes will not be available virtually. These classes will only be taught virtually if all classes division-wide are taught remotely.
Parents/Guardians may shift from one model to another by working with the school counseling department to make sure there is enough room and to allow time for the switch to happen. Also, it can take up to 15 days to add a child to a bus route when a family requests transportation after the start of the school year. (During the waiting period, parents/guardians will need to provide transportation.)