HVS reinstates in-person learning with hybrid model

All students attending hybrid school in HVS utilizes partitions for maximum safety in the classroom.


All students attending hybrid school in HVS utilizes partitions for maximum safety in the classroom.

Riley Coesens, Editor in Chief

The typical “growing pains” of back-to-school season have been intensified by the effects of COVID-19; many students no longer grudgingly roll out of bed to go to school, as it has become a precious time of social and academic interaction. For grades K-7, the hybrid model adopted by the Huron Valley School District was put into action immediately on Aug. 31st; for grades 8-12, students participated in two weeks of completely virtual learning before attending in person on Sept. 14th or Sept. 15th for the first time. When surveyed, 80% of HVS parents stated that they would like their children to partake in some form of in-person learning; for those who determined isolated learning was more favorable, the Huron Valley Virtual Academy (HVVA) was created. The hybrid model, as explained by MHS Principal Kevin McKenna, is intended to be a “mediator” option for students and parents–for those who did not enroll in the HVVA, school will take place two days in-person, based on one’s address, and two days virtually, with an asynchronous learning day for all on Wednesdays. “There is wholeheartedly nothing better than kids in front of a teacher–it is the best education you can get. Engaging, creating activities, conversations, the art of teaching. That’s hard for teachers to replicate that easily,” McKenna explained. The biggest questions at hand, however, regard the safety of students, staff, and the community as a whole, as well as the quality of education that will be implemented to replace a traditional start to the school year. 

In the plans outlined by the Governor Whitmer’s office in August for returning to school, some portions were left to interpretation district by district; in Huron Valley, students and staff will be participating in these protective measures daily. These include (but are not limited to) wearing masks as much as possible indoors (mask off in partition for lunch), required temperature checks upon entering the building, using partitions in class and lunch, washing hands and offering hand sanitizer stations in classrooms and hallways, using the AUX gym to spread out students during lunch periods, posted signage for maintaining six feet apart and arrows to regulate traffic direction, and custodians fogging classrooms with a hospital-grade disinfectant nightly. MHS will also encourage students to use their lockers regularly and wipe down their workstations. Locker rooms and fitness centers for physical education courses are disinfected daily, and no visitors will be allowed without prior authorization. Many families are also concerned  how a COVID case would be addressed, if it were to arise. “Per the Oakland County Health Division, if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, that individual would be excluded from HVS until 10 days have passed since symptoms appeared, symptoms have improved and the individual has been symptom free for 24 hours without fever reducing medicine,” explained HVS Executive Director of School Safety, Communications and Strategic Initiatives Kim Root. “Oakland County would then follow up with anyone who is considered a close contact (an individual who was within six feet of the COVID positive individual for more than 15 minutes with or without a mask).”

There are numerous benefits and drawbacks to attending school in-person, as maintaining 100% safety is difficult, but under current circumstances, MHS has taken to utilizing Whitmer’s methods for sanitization,  social distancing, and other precautionary measures. When it comes down to it, learning in a classroom with captivating lessons and guidance from a teacher goes unmatched in value; “There is wholeheartedly nothing better than kids in front of a teacher–it is the best education you can get. Engaging, creating activities, conversations, the art of teaching. That’s hard for teachers to replicate that easily,” McKenna explained. “Students are going to feel the change in those routines. Our new normal is constantly changing,” McKenna stated. Some of these changing routines include increasing enforcement of old and new rules alike, as well as monitoring student locations more closely and becoming more attentive to ensure these safety measures are effective. Root also elaborated, “There is no substitute for in-person instruction. While attending in person, students have the opportunity to be with their peers bolstering their social and emotional well-being. Of course there is a level of risk associated with returning to school in-person. We believe, however, with the safety precautions we’ve implemented, the risk is low.”

The goal of hybrid education is to enforce limited face-to-face interactions as a means of prioritizing student, faculty, and families’ health. Nonetheless, it has sparked a new age of growth for students working to adapt personal learning to fit within the limits of a screen. Issues such as those involving technology on both student and staff ends, will never be completely abolished, but will improve with time and experience. “Students will probably face technical difficulties and face a harder time learning material,” Senior Leia Lehrer stated. “But I think returning to school partially will be good for the community because it’s been so long since we’ve had any sort of routine or social interaction.” Though many are grateful for any in-person teaching at all, students and parents are left wondering what impact a part-time lecture and activity experience will have. “With hybrid learning, I feel like there will be a gap in what we are learning. We get tons of information two days a week and are then expected to remember everything,” said Sophomore Mila Koivula. “A huge part of being a teenager and high school is seeing your friends. As people, we need human connection and as teenagers we need friends.” As time in class is constricted, so are chances for students to have much-needed time to share their lives with peers, but many have concluded that two days is better than none. 

In any new situation, hardships will test the strength of the solution, and often requires adaptation to occur; this ideology has already been apparent within the past six months of altered learning. Technology and expectations will be two major challenges for parents and students alike to overcome: “I believe working with our families on the expectations of remote learning will be the greatest challenge,” said Root. “I also believe the limitations of technology (connectivity) and the number of devices needed will continue to pose challenges.” McKenna also understands that in-person learning will bring its own difficulties, but that the resilience of each student will conquer them by being consistent and purposeful in his/her actions. “ MHS is large–500 kids per hybrid day. We need our kids, teachers, secretaries, custodians–everyone needs to be on the same page,” McKenna stated. “Keep talking about it–we won’t be perfect, but we need to keep having conversations about it.” Openness and flexibility are crucial during these trying times, particularly between students and staff as both try to navigate the messiness present. 

The spirit of Milford’s people overcomes the stress of returning to school for many; the promise of fulfilling expectations for the year may only be achievable if everyone cooperates to keep our community safe. “This school year is going to require us to be incredibly flexible. It will test our patiences, whether you’re a student, staff member or parent. If we continue to work together, we will meet these challenges and exceed all expectations,” Root explained. It will be the little things that students come to cherish from the start of this school year as they hopefully await the fun opportunities ahead. “Half of their school won’t be here, but we will get back to that day when we can be all together. Having that energy of a Friday night football game, for example–we want that for our kids,” McKenna concluded. “We aren’t there yet, but if we respect these rules, we will get back there sooner. Be good Mavericks, take care of one another, so we can get back to our normal to finish off the year strong.”