Morgan Hill Unified School District opened some local elementary schools for limited in-person instruction for students and staff earlier this month, and on Nov. 17 the board of education voted unanimously to continue the “early return” pilot program.
The board’s vote approved Phase Two of the “opt-in early return” pilot program through the expansion of additional classrooms in schools where the program was implemented Nov. 4. These schools are Barrett Elementary, El Toro Health Science Academy, San Martin/Gwinn Environmental Science Academy and Nordstrom Elementary School.
The in-person pilot program is permitted to proceed even while Santa Clara County is in the purple, or most restrictive, Covid-19 risk tier, MHUSD officials noted. The schools and classrooms must comply with state and county health protocols in order to retain their approval for facilities and staffing.
Los Paseos Elementary School is not part of the early return pilot program, but the district has learned that the school will qualify for a waiver for in-person learning, according to MHUSD officials.
The board’s Nov. 17 approval also applies to upcoming additional phases of the early return pilot program. Phase III of the program would establish more pilot classrooms at additional elementary sites and would be rolled out in December under a waiver, if necessary, under the purple tier.
MHUSD and individual schools may also plan for more in-person instruction at middle and high schools, to which students and parents could opt in, according to district staff. But in-person instruction at these schools may not begin until the county is out of the purple tier.
MHUSD has in fact implemented three in-person learning programs in recent months: connectivity hubs, small group supports and the in-person early return pilot program.
In-person connectivity hubs are groups of students who are approved to enter campus to attend their classes virtually, similar to what many students are doing at home under the district’s distance learning model, according to a press release from MHUSD.
Students interact with their teacher or instructional program through their computer, even though they are physically in the room with other students. Each student is assigned a specific location in a classroom at their school site while they learn on their electronic device.
“These hubs adhere to strict protocols as outlined by our Health & Safety Taskforce,” says the MHUSD press release. A signed parent waiver is required for a student to participate in a connectivity hub.
Small support groups
In-person small support groups are approved to enter campus to receive instructional or social-emotional support beyond their typical virtual or in-person class instruction schedules. The groups are initiated by the school principal after submitting and gaining approval.
“Special Day Classes” may qualify for on-campus group support during class time, even if they are not participating in the in-person pilot program, the press release states.
An invitation from the school and a parent commitment form are required for a student to participate in a small support group.
In-person early return pilot
The early return pilot classrooms use a “live instruction hybrid model,” in which part of the class receives instruction in the classroom while the rest of the class receives instruction at home or another venue through their computer, MHUSD staff explained.
“Under this model, educational technology is integrated to facilitate teaching and learning and enables the teacher to livestream instruction to students who continue in distance learning,” the press release says.
Teachers selected for the pilot program also participate in technology training and health/safety protocols while receiving support from district administrators. “Health and safety protocols are a top priority and will be adhered to, including communicating expectations for students, parents, staff, screening protocols and social distancing,” says the press release. “We will prepare the sites (and) the classrooms, and address concerns brought up by the teachers and parents.”
The pilot program teachers will provide feedback and recommendations to district staff and site administrators about the challenges, successes and their overall experience throughout the pilot program.
“The District is continuing to work hard to enhance the classrooms and establish procedures that are essential for a safe return for students and staff,” the press release concludes. “We recognize that there are some who are not yet comfortable to return for a variety of reasons, and for them, the distance learning model will remain an option.”