Dallas ISD considering hybrid virtual/in-person schooling model

Dallas ISD is exploring a new model that could permanently change how some kids are educated, even after the coronavirus pandemic ends.

If approved on a permanent basis, Dallas ISD would be the first public school district in Texas to launch a hybrid part virtual, part-brick and mortal school. But the district would first need the state to waive seat time attendance requirements.

Students would be on campus two days a week and at home the remaining three days. It is an idea the district has been working on with Apple, behind the scenes, long before the pandemic.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa is also exploring whether a combination of virtual and classroom learning should be applied to the entire district as an emergency this fall, but that will only be decided after the state issues its guidelines for schools.

“This crisis has forced us to do things,” Hinojosa said.

He said that, among other things, the district is being told to plan for 4-day rolling shutdowns during the school year, for testing and cleaning of schools, in case of outbreaks.

So it seems like online learning could be here to stay for some students.

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The hybrid school model would educate with three on-campus settings. The first is stadium-style teaching.

It would be implemented not this next school year, but in fall 2021.

“We can pick our very best teachers, they can be teaching many students,” said Ivonne Durant, DISD Chief Academic Officer.

The second and third model would be smaller group studio and lab settings.

“In some instances it could require fewer teachers,” said Angie Gaylord, DISD Deputy Chief Transformation and Innovation. “We would explore if teachers would have enough time to teach their face to face versus when they are virtual also.

On the other three days, students would learn at home at their own pace.

With no testing data to show how students would fair under virtual learning, even a trustee who supports the pilot school concept has questions.

“I have those reservations about whether we can have young kids at home having discipline for this independent study three days a week,” said Dallas ISD trustee Dan Micciche.

Those three days at home each week would mean the program would not work for families where one parent doesn't stay home and there are also concerns about what the proposal means for teachers moving forward.

The school board will likely decide if they want staff to pursue opening a hybrid pilot school with a vote on the attendance waivers later this month.

Monica Marcelo’s two boys, Damien and Gabriel, are students at Rosemont Elementary.

Earlier this month, they shared how difficult online learning can be.

After hearing the news Thursday, Marcelo doesn’t understand how the plan could work.

“I mean, I’d rather go back to work. I’d rather the kids go back. You know, they’re missing out on playing with their friends, interacting with other people, you know, it’s hard for them,” she said.

Rena Honea, with the teacher’s union, Alliance AFT, said in a statement, “So many students need that face-to-face and hands-on interaction with a teacher. They don’t always get that on the online learning.”

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