Teresa Roose teaches her kindergarten class on the first day of in-seat learning for the Avondale School district Feb. 18.

Teresa Roose teaches her kindergarten class on the first day of in-seat learning for the Avondale School district Feb. 18.

Photo provided by Avondale Schools

Avondale Schools resumes in-person learning with hybrid schedule

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published February 24, 2021


ROCHESTER HILLS/AUBURN HILLS/BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — After nearly a year of remote learning due to COVID-19, Avondale Schools has returned to in-person learning.

For the first time this school year, the district welcomed elementary, middle and high school students back into its buildings Feb. 18, utilizing a hybrid model.

“It’s unimaginable to think that we haven’t seen students in these classrooms in almost a year, but students are back, and it’s great to see,” Avondale Superintendent James Schwarz said. “(Feb. 18) was the first pitter patter of little feet in the hallways and in the classrooms. It was great to see students actually being able to interface with one another and interface with their teacher without being behind a screen.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration set a goal for all schools to offer an in-person learning option for their students by March 1.

Avondale Schools gave district students the option of attending in-person with a temporary hybrid model or continuing with remote learning — which district officials said now includes real-time streaming into the seated classroom for middle and high school students. At the elementary level, certain teachers have been designated to teach classes entirely of remote students, by grade level.

The hybrid model, according to the district, helps ease students and staff into buildings while allowing school officials to adjust processes before all students return.

“Though this plan is not the return to school that we have imagined and hoped for, it is a step in the right direction toward full-time instruction, when social distancing no longer becomes a factor in classroom capacity,” Schwarz said.

The hybrid learning model — which decreases density by around 50% in each school — splits students into two groups by last name.

At the elementary level, the groups attend four half days of in-person instruction, either in the morning for last names A-L or the afternoon for M-Z.

At the middle and high school levels, the first half of the alphabet attends schools for a full day of in-seat instruction on Mondays and Tuesdays, while the latter half attends a full day on Thursdays and Fridays.

Wednesdays are designated as asynchronous days for all students — whether in remote learning or in-seat — to give custodial staff a day each week to deep clean each building, provide opportunity for teachers to meet as teams to collaborate, and allow time for student support and outreach.

Dan Trudel, the district’s assistant superintendent for financial services, said there was a lot of logistical work that had to be done to ready the buildings — and classrooms — for hybrid learners.

“We had to move a lot of furniture around the district in order to accommodate social distancing spacing requirements,” he explained. “In terms of PPE, the district worked really hard to ensure that every classroom had a gallon of hand sanitizer, masks and gloves in every building, and different cleaning products in each room, because teachers are now cleaning the desks in between class periods.”

Schwarz said moving to the hybrid model is the district’s “first dip in the pool” for in-seat instruction this school year.

“We’re going to look at our protocols, and as we master those, and folks’ confidence level gets a little bit more increased, then we’ll be looking to perhaps expand on the amount of time in-seat as we progress in the school year. Those dialogs are happening right now, in terms of what those next steps could be and when,” he said.

Michigan Law requires districts to recertify their COVID-19 plan every 30 days.

“We anxiously await the day when we can safely welcome all of our students and staff members back into our buildings,” Schwarz said.

For more information, call Avondale Schools at (248) 537-6000 or visit www.avondaleschools.org.