January 6th School Board Meeting About New Hybrid Model

On Wednesday January 6th, the Oyster River School Board approved a motion to allow Oyster River High School (ORHS) to prepare for the implementation of a hybrid model school schedule. This option allows ORHS to prepare for the new Hybrid model, but in order to implement it, the board will need to vote again. The plan, presented by ORHS principal Suzanne Filippone, is an AM/PM 50% hybrid model made to accommodate both remote and in-person students. This model involves another schedule change for the high school students, requires new staff to be hired, and lots of organization of students on behalf of the administration before it can be implemented. The earliest the model would be implemented is February 1st, though this is not a set date. Filippone will present the school board on January 20th after community surveys are completed.  

The AM/PM hybrid model will split the day into two parts to allow the remote and in person students to attend classes. In the morning, remote only students will report to their classes between 8am and 11:25am. Then, in the afternoon, 50% of in person students will attend classes between 12:10pm and 3:05pm and receive the same lesson in person. In-person students will attend school in two groups based alphabetically on their last names. In-person students with last names starting with A-Ki will attend school in person on Mondays and Tuesdays and in-person students with last names Kl-Z will attend in person school on Thursdays and Fridays. 

The schedule will continue to consist of Blue and White days, with Wednesday as a relearning day for students. In person students will still have to attend remote school on the days when they are not going into school. Students in advanced placement, running start, and advanced study classes may be asked to attend the remote classes in the morning regardless of whether they are attending school in the afternoon. AP US History student Morgan Veno (‘22), who plans to be a remote learner, is glad her class will be able to touch base as a whole occasionally. “It will probably be a lot easier for my teacher and it won’t feel as empty as when we are split up,” said Veno.

Advisory will also be changing to adapt to the students being both in person and remote. There will be Advisory periods every day of the school week for students. On Tuesdays and Fridays, students will meet with only parts of their advisory depending on whether they are remote or in person that day. On Mondays and Thursdays all students will be required to check into the morning remote advisory to meet as a whole group regardless of whether they plan to attend as an in person student in the afternoon. Filippone’s reasoning for requiring students to check in with their whole advisory is, “For the advisory community it’s really important for it to be together.” ORHS student Eleanor Sandin (‘23) is happy to see that advisories will still be able to connect as a whole group. “With class schedules changing again and not getting to see everyone in my classes anymore, it will be nice to have some consistency and see familiar faces,” said Sandin.

In order to make this new model work for both remote and in person students, classes will be shortened to accommodate both sets of students. At the start of the school year, each student started with 160 minutes of time each week per class. This new schedule will cut that nearly in half giving students 85-90 minutes of time in class per week. The shortened class also means that on White days, there will no longer be office hours. “I think it would have been nice to find a way with more in between and preserve a higher amount of class time, but this is a great solution,” said board vice chair member, Michael Williams during the meeting. 

Shortened class times means more asynchronous learning, designated time for students to learn independently. For this schedule to benefit all students, in particular the remote students need to utilize this time. For remote students, this time will be in the afternoon and for in-person students, it will be the morning. Students working remotely in the afternoon will not have access to their teachers since teachers will be in person teaching. 

In the meeting Filippone said, “We really need to start working on getting cameras on and this is going to be a priority moving forward.” For remote students the use of cameras is going to be a huge help to both them and teachers. “Seeing kids’ faces and the way they are interacting when you are teaching is so very important to be able to respond appropriately,” said Filippone during the meeting. The ORHS Student Senate has already begun to work with administration on this issue and has developed a committee to better address it. 

Along with camera usage in remote classes another worry is whether students will use the asynchronous time effectively.  Board member Yusi Turell questioned this during the meeting and how the school can ensure students will use it properly. “How the teachers ask the kids to use the time and how parents expect the kids to use it is important,” responded Filippone. “A lot of the kids are home alone, so the best intentions may be for a student to work on their project during their asynchronous time, but they may decide not to do it.” Filippone has found that motivating kids to utilize this time has been “one of the biggest challenges” throughout remote learning. Filippone and her administration are working on more ways to motivate kids during this time, but the reality is that it falls on students. Students who struggle a lot with working independently can become targeted learners and receive in school help every day.  

Some students at ORHS have been able to attend in-person classes at UNH and neighboring high schools. The schedule flexibility will be a big benefit to the students in CTC and UNH CATS classes. The UNH CATS program allows upperclassmen to take college credit courses at UNH, and the CTC programs (career technical center) let students take classes at Dover and Spaulding Highschool for specific career paths like nursing and cosmetology. This flexibility will make it easier for CTC and CATS students to not miss class, which is considered a big pro by the school in this hybrid model. Since classes will run twice, once remotely in the morning and again in person in the afternoon, students will be able to take CTC and UNH classes and then still attend their classes in whichever time frame fits their schedule. 

ORHS student Tessa Lippmann (‘21) is in the UNH CATS program and has experienced scheduling conflicts throughout the year. Her initial schedule worked well, but after the schedule changes which occured with different learning models she started to experience issues. “They moved the classes so that several of mine were at the same time, so then I had to miss a lot more of my classes,” said Lippmann. Lippmann hopes that this new schedule will provide her with more opportunity to get to all her classes saying, “This new model means I don’t have to miss part of my classes any more.” 

One potential issue with the proposed model is if the high school were to have to return to a full remote learning environment. This would prompt another complicated schedule change for students and teachers and it could mess up CTC and UNH CATs students’ carefully planned schedules. “I am scared that the school board will vote to change the schedule again, mid-semester. When they do this, it seriously impacts my class time (which is already limited) and scheduling,” said Lippmann. 

If the school were to need to go back to a fully remote schedule they would use the original remote model, keeping Blue and White days and returning to 80 minute class periods. Switching between a remote and hybrid environment is likely due to case number fluxuations and potential infections within the school. “People need to be ready for the shifting back and forth,” said Filippone.

Before getting school board approval to fully implement this plan, Filippone will need to hire more staff, get feedback from the community, and much more. The school will likely need around four new staff members who can supervise students for the five faculty members who plan to teach remotely or to take over for teachers who have been exposed. 

Board member Al Howland made the motion to “allow Suzanne to investigate the implementation of the 50 percent AM/PM hybrid model.” This motion was seconded by Brian Cisneros. This motion was passed with all 7 board members in favor and the student school board representative in support. 

Filippone will return the school board on January 20th to present again and provide more information to the board before the model can be approved.