Implementing a hybrid learning model will be among the greatest tasks schools have taken on in recent time. The training, coordination, communication and curriculum development all will be large tasks.

In a hybrid model, schools deliver both In-School instruction and Off-Site (or distance) learning. Curriculums need to be aligned. Throughout implementation, safety needs to remain No. 1 with specific protocols and training in place.

MREA prepared this guide outlining the key actions to take as school leaders implement and operationalize a hybrid model:

Key Steps

  1. Align grade levels and departments
  2. Complete staff assignments
  3. Make school calendar adjustments, if needed
  4. Allocate technology for students
  5. Install temporary physical modifications for health and safety
  6. Adhere to safety protocols
  7. Finalize safe transportation plans
  8. Coordinate nutrition services
  9. Prepare for COVID-19 cases
  10. Communicate throughout from the inside out

Taking Action

1. Align grade levels and departments

All school staff need to be aligned on the key concepts and skills to be taught as well as agree on a pacing schedule with the hybrid model. Set up regular virtual meetings to communicate plans and continue close coordination.

Resources to bring your staff, curriculum and plan together:

  • Presentation by the Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE)
  • Course on Hybrid Learning by South Central Service Cooperative (SCSC)
  • Continue training staff through the district’s Learning Management System(s) (LMS) and consider going to one LMS for simplicity for families.
  • With your IT staff, plan how teachers and students will meet the MDE guidance on minimum hour requirements (found on pages 50-53 of  MDE Planning Guidance)
  • Consider putting teams of teachers together for the same grade level or secondary academic discipline. Determine who will deliver distance learning and who will provide in-school instruction. For example, some could handle all distance learning lessons and contact, including hybrid students when they are not in-school. Then, in-school teachers would focus on in-school instruction.
  • Consider training and coaching for teachers who will be primarily providing off-site learning. This may be due to underlying health conditions or in courses that do not lend themselves to in-person instruction in COVID-19.
  • This is also the time to assess your returning learners to determine needs and align staffing accordingly. NWEA, an MREA partner, has a limited number of free assessments for districts new to NWEA. These assessments can now be done remotely from home. Learn more or contact Amy Hansen-Bhutta at: hansen.bhutta@nwea.org or 218-316-0385.

2. Complete staff assignments

Schools will need to work with unions and likely develop Memorandums of Understanding on adjustments needed in the master agreements to accommodate staff working in hybrid with distance learning.

What to consider:

Alex Liuzzi, executive director of Minnesota’s Professional Educator Licensing & Standards Board (PELSB), provides this guidance:

  • If the proposed teacher assignment is out of the license area, apply. for an Out of Field Permission (OFP) from PELSB.
  • Both the district and teacher, who is considered the applicant, must sign and date the permission indicating approval.
  • This permission must be posted for 15 days for a teacher’s first OFP, and 60 days for additional OFPs. Districts may apply for a Discretionary Variance.
  • Attach the answers to the questions on the Discretionary Variance Request form on district letterhead.
  • A teacher can have up to five OFPs in a career, but PELSB can grant additional OFP’s for “good cause.”

3. Make school calendar adjustments

The hybrid learning model requires a different pace and rhythm. Some schools may choose to change their start and end dates or scheduled days off for students. Determine if you need to amend your school calendar to provide time to prepare to open in a hybrid model and get board approval.

What to consider:

  • In the hybrid model, all days are instructional days for students whether they are in the school for instruction or at home doing the work assigned and consulting with teachers during office hours.
  • For those in off-site learning, all days are instructional days whether the work is synchronous or asynchronous. Students and teachers need to connect daily in some manner.
  • Calculate hours of instruction to meet MDE guidance on meeting minimum hour requirements (found on pages 50-53 of MDE Planning Guidance).
  • Determine if you need changes for staff development.
  • MDE reopened the flexible year applications if you want to start before Labor Day. See application.
  • Consider starting in distance learning and shift to hybrid with distance learning when you can do it safely.

4. Allocate technology for students

Access to technology plays a key role in a hybrid learning for students. Figure out the technology that students are going to use and how the information and activities can be loaded for students who do not have internet at home in the hybrid model. If you’re lacking resources, look to community partners and businesses to help meet student needs.

5. Install temporary physical modifications

Schools will need to modify their spaces to promote health and safety. This likely will include contracting for temporary physical modifications to school buildings for additional classrooms and possible modifications to HVAC systems to minimize transmission of disease particles.

6. Adhere to safety protocols

There are a series of health and safety procedures that schools need to implement based CDC guidelines, MDH Guidance for Schools, and MDH Youth Activities Guidance. In addition to implementing each protocol, schools also need to train staff on what’s expected, including efforts to:

  • Promote behaviors that reduce spread
    Maintain healthy environments
    Set ground rules and expectations for use of common spaces, including bathrooms, hallways, lockers and playgrounds, athletics and bus loading and unloading to limit congregating.

This includes operational procedures for:

  • Cleaning and disinfecting (in buildings and transportation)
  • Masking
  • Health Screening

View video on details, provided by IEA, shared in partnership with MASBO.

View presentation with details, provided by IEA.

7. Finalize safe transportation plans

Providing a safe, clean ride to school is among the key elements of students returning safely for in-person instruction this fall given the COVID-19 pandemic and related health guidelines.

What to consider:

MREA partnered with Palmer Bus to provide a checklist for:

  • Safe drivers
  • A safe ride
  • A clean ride
  • A safe bus garage (Terminal)

For MDH requirements and recommendations, see page 14 of MDH Guidance.

8. Coordinate nutrition services

In a hybrid model, schools may use bus routes to deliver meals for the days students are not In-School and those on distance learning, if allowed by MDE and USDA

What to consider:

  • Put food in tubs in the seat behind the driver.
  • Consider adding a paraprofessional to the afternoon routes to distribute food at the stops and aid students in maintaining social distancing.
  • View MDE Nutrition Guidance

9. Prepare for COVID-19 cases

Identify how your school will monitor and respond to students or staff contracting COVID-19. There are a series of steps outlined in CDC guidelines.  Ensure the administration and board are aware of the process and communicate them with staff and then with parents/guardians and the community.

What to consider:

  • Follow MDH requirements and recommendations, see page 10-13 of MDH Guidance for Schools.
  • The best practice is to trace all who had prolonged exposure to student or staff with COVID-19 and inform parents, and staff.
  • Follow MDH and MDE guidance for self-quarantining, which for students means they shift to full Off-Site learning for that time period. See page 12-13 of MDH Guidance for Schools.
  • For staff, self-quarantining means they and their students move to distance learning unless the district has substitutes who can do the in-school learning. Districts need to determine which is better for learning.
  • This is why it is so important to limit student movement and have everyone stay on their schedule.

10. Communicate throughout from the inside out

Keeping your staff, students and their families and broader community informed on what steps you’re taking are critical. At each major decision, communicate internally and then share externally. It’s best to create a rhythm of communications.

This is similar to the increased communications throughout the planning and implementation of distance learning. Learn more.

What to consider:

  • Centralize and coordinate communications.
  • Map your communications, considering both important and urgent messages
  • Break down the information in easy-to-understand components. What do they need to know now? What will you share next?
  • Create a central site (page on your website) for information on hybrid learning

Resources

OVERALL

School districts and charter schools must adhere to the health requirements and recommendations in MDH Guidance for Schools and should consult MDE Planning Guidance for Minnesota Public Schools for 2020-21 as plans for each scenario are developed.

CDC guidelines are comprehensive on the following aspects reopening and operating schools safely:

  • Promoting Behaviors that Reduce Spread
  • Maintaining Healthy Environments
  • Maintaining Healthy Operations
  • Preparing for When Someone Gets Sick

BUILDING SYSTEMS

Training

Learn more about proactively maintaining healthy school facilities in this three-part seminar from Kraus Anderson. CEU credits available. (Contact: John Huenink)

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Taking Action

MREA developed extensive guides and resources to implement a new hybrid learning model with these key planning phases:

  1.  Assess
  2. Pre-Plan
  3. Build New Master Schedules (with interactive worksheet)
  4. Implement and Operationalize
  5. Communicate

Stay Connected

Stay connected to news and resources on reopening schools in Minnesota: mreavoice.org/reopeningschools