On Monday, Sept. 7, the Montevideo School District's first week of hybrid learning went into effect for the 2020-2021 school year.

On Monday, Sept. 7, the Montevideo School District’s first week of hybrid learning went into effect for the 2020-2021 school year.

According to MHS Principal Scott Hickey, the first week went well; the students were excited to be back in the building after nearly six months of being outside of the classroom, and the staff were excited to have them back. He added that there was excellent teaching, as well as learning going on the first week back.

“Regarding successes,” Hickey said, “having our students back in our buildings once again! Teachers are teaching, and students are learning. We are able to build relationships with our students, and see them face to face; well, through a mask of course.”

Hickey also mentioned some challenges that they have faced since returning.

“The biggest challenge is that we are running our school building in an entirely different way,” he explained. “We have run school in a very organized manner that has looked very much the same for decades. Now, we are ‘reinventing the wheel,’ so procedurally and organizationally there are many differences.”

Hickey continued, elaborating that when they come up with something to work in the current situation, there are five new things that need to be adjusted to account for it.

“It will all get sorted out, but this will be a work in progress this year, and we expect things to continually change so we can make improvements and refinements,” he said.

From an administrative standpoint, according to Hickey, hybrid learning is a logistical nightmare. However, they are making it work, and he is very optimistic.

“It’s all worth it so we can have our staff and students working together in classrooms once again! We will be better in week five than we were in week one. We will continue to improve as the school year progresses,” Hickey said.

Hickey stated that the biggest adjustment the students and staff has had to face would be having the students in class one day per week. He added, however, that they prefer not to focus on the negatives, but rather the positives that will come from the current situation.

“This style of learning will allow teachers to teach in new ways and have them learn new things to help students that they may have never had the opportunity to try before. We also know that more responsibility is shifted onto our students. This will allow them to grow and become more responsible for their own education,” said Hickey.

Hickey believes that within the hybrid learning model, there is a nice mix of students learning at home, but also coming into school for in-person instruction and support, which, according to Hickey, should allow them to add more support and create more opportunities for students that they were not able to provide last Spring when the district first enacted distance learning.

“Most of our students did very well last year in distance learning,” he said, “so we expect that to be even better in hybrid learning. We also have the option to bring in students that are struggling more than one day a week. In fact, we have some students that struggled last spring coming in multiple days a week to get the support we need. We know we will be a stronger school after this is over and we return to ‘normal.’ Our students will also become stronger individuals as a result of this.”

As of now, there is no determined timeframe as to how long hybrid learning will remain in place.

“It will depend on the cases of COVID in our school district, and all of the other factors we have to take into consideration. Our first priority is student and staff safety, as well as the safety of all of their family members at home,” said Hickey.

The school district will continue working with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Countryside Public Health as time goes on.

Hickey said, “We know that we most likely will experience distance learning, in-person learning, and hybrid learning at different points this school year, and we are ready to respond to the situation in our community as needed to keep everyone as safe as possible.”

Montevideo Principals Bill Spring and Shawn Huntley were also impressed with the results of the district’s first week of hybrid learning.

According to them, though it is a new process, both students and staff were happy to be in the building again.

“The biggest issue,” said Huntley, “has been internet issues while off-site. Families have reported several connectivity concerns to us regarding their own internet service. We understand that families have little control over this and we will continue to work with families when these situations happen.”

Sprung concurred with Huntley regarding internet connectivity frustrations.

“Hybrid teaching is different from any model that we have tried in the past,” Sprung said. “It will take time to normalize processes, timelines, and expectations. Our teachers, students, and parents are working hard and doing a great job trying to make this new normal work for them.”

Huntley noted that the overall adjustment to the hybrid model has gone fairly smoothly thus far. He said that the distance learning experience they began last school year provided the students the opportunity to learn virtually, which allowed them to gain skills in navigating the Chromebook for their classes. As expected, memories needed refreshing at the beginning of the year, but, according to Huntley, they are off and running now.

The COVID pandemic will continue to provide new challenges as the year progresses, but the district will continue to do everything it can to prepare for the evolving situation.

Huntley added, “Be kind to yourself and others as we navigate this challenge together.”