The Maple Run school board has made the decision on whether Bellows Free Academy will stay hybrid or not for the remainder of the school year. According to BFA Principal Brett Blanchard, the decision to remain hybrid for the remainder of the school year was made before April break.
Blanchard noted that a large concern revolved around whether or not senior events would need to be cancelled. This is because contact tracing occurs at school frequently, and even with masks and in-classroom social distancing, it is possible COVID-19 could spread more, resulting in more contact tracing.
In response to whether BFA will stay hybrid or not, Blanchard said, “The issue…was discussed, and [the school board] agreed that the priorities of the school happened to be on continuity of learning for kids that have had the most disruptive year-and-a-half in education in the modern world.”
According to Blanchard, to increase the likelihood of end-of-the-school-year events such as graduation and prom being held, the school board decided to stay hybrid. At this point, with a month of school left, remaining hybrid would also be less disruptive of events and students’ learning and schedules. Staying continuous with the school schedule was seen as a better choice than going full-time for such a short remainder of the school year.
“Allowing students to have some consistency, given that their schedules have been maintained up to this point, it would be a minimal number of days that they would benefit from in-person,” Blanchard said.
According to Blanchard, the plan for the next school year is to go back to the usual schedule with block days on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and seven-period days on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.
“It’s going to look like it has, and that may not mean a whole lot to everyone. It’s going to be a seven-period day…it’ll be pretty similar [to previous years],” Blanchard said.
He added that the goal is to go back next school year as fully and as normally as possible.
Blanchard noted that this could always change depending on the number of COVID-19 cases in Vermont or numerous other variables.
In addition, BFA is currently looking at options on how to build in recovery for students who struggled to pass classes this school year.
“We [will] have opportunities for students that did not earn their necessary credits or proficiencies, so we have that built in. Now, that doesn’t mean anything different than the seven-period [schedule], it means that we’re working hard to see that students are not behind by the end of next year,” Blanchard said.
In regards to the pros and cons of the hybrid schedule, Blanchard said, “That’s probably the most important question…What do we want to keep that we’ve learned [during this school year]? And what do we want to discard if we can?”
The goal is to adopt some of the aspects of hybrid learning in future years.
“For example, some students…did well online. Now, that’s a small percent, but we need to realize some students can learn well that way. Some parents and community members really liked the live streaming of events because they can watch it from their household if they can’t make it [in-person], so I’d like to see live streaming [in the future], but still allow in-person attendance,” Blanchard said.
For the remainder of the school year, BFA’s schedule will remain as is. Although next year is still undetermined, going back to normal full-time, in-person, learning is the Maple Run School District’s goal.