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After months of remote learning, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools is considering a transition to hybrid instruction for the spring. 

Interim superintendent Jim Causby presented an outline of what the transition to hybrid education could look like at Thursday's CHCCS board meeting. 

Under Causby’s proposed plan, students would come back to school in two phases — one phase beginning in November and another phase in the second semester. Causby said the board will be able to determine the timeline for the implementation of hybrid instruction. 

“Whatever decision the board makes, we will implement,” Causby said.

The board approved Phase One of the plan, which will include hybrid instruction for students in the adaptive curriculum or alternative education program SPIRE@Phoenix. On-site standardized testing will resume and the district will provide additional funding for YMCA learning centers.

Phase Two of Causby’s proposed reopening plan would bring all students in CHCCS back to school under a hybrid instructional model while allowing parents to choose to have their students stay in remote learning for the rest of the academic year. 

The board stopped short of fully approving Phase Two and will continue to work with Causby to plan for a hybrid school reopening.

Under Phase Two, students would be separated into two cohorts, A and B, and would attend in-person instruction on Mondays/Tuesdays or Thursdays/Fridays, with Wednesdays reserved for school cleaning. For the remainder of the week, students would have remote instruction. Students from the same family would be assigned to the same cohorts.

Causby’s proposal included a staggered return for students starting in the spring, with the district’s youngest students, in pre-K through second grade, returning in late January and other class year cohorts phased in throughout February.

During Phase One of the reopening plan, staff for in-person instruction will initially be recruited from the pool of staff members who volunteer to return. Staff members who return will receive a stipend — either $250 weekly or prorated per day — and have access to child care. Causby said the district will secure personal protective equipment, including N95 masks and face shields, on behalf of staff members.

The transition to hybrid instruction depends on the spread of COVID-19 in the local community. Board member Jillian LaSerna cited studies showing that positive test rates in the community may be reflected among high school students and staff.

COVID-19 cases in North Carolina and Orange County are increasing, Causby said. He said Orange County has a 9 percent test positivity rate for children ages 0 to 17.

Assistant superintendent Patrick Abele also said students at UNC will be returning for classes around the same time as the second semester begins for CHCCS. The school district does not yet know how this will impact the community.

Board member Ashton Powell suggested the district adjust expectations of the academic plan for teachers and students, citing questions from students about grading and pass-fail policies. Powell said he worries about students facing academic pressure to perform and compete against their peers and noted that students have now been through multiple different modes of instruction due to the pandemic.

“This is new territory,” Powell said. “We’re running an experiment on our kids in every single way.”


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