Boston schools pitch hybrid ‘hopscotch model’ that would share classroom time

A hybrid “hopscotch” plan is being considered by Boston school officials that could have the city’s 50,000-plus students share classroom space on an alternating basis this fall, allowing kids to see a teacher at least twice a week.

It’s the first glimpse of a potential lesson plan that was unveiled Wednesday evening in a school committee Zoom session where officials said the draft idea both meets health guidelines and allows teachers to have face time with kids.

“It’s not really possible for us at the Boston Public Schools to have school reopen with all of our students in our school buildings on day one,” said Tammy Pust, a senior BPS adviser who presented the hybrid model.

“We can only put 50% of the number of students on our buses than we did in the past, which means we can’t get our students to the school building in time to start on day one,” Pust added.

School is set to start in Boston Sept. 10. Pust was quick to say that all school reopening plans are still under consideration.

She said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which will be followed at BPS, call for one student per row on buses, no food in cafeterias, desks spaced 6 feet apart and masks on all students and staff.

“We need to have a hybrid plan. A hybrid plan means a plan that is based on both some kids in person and some kids learning remotely,” Pust said.

She presented a draft plan called a “hopscotch model” in which students in every school would be divided into two groups. One group would be in person on Monday and Tuesday and would learn remotely for the rest of the week.

The second group would learn remotely on Monday and Tuesday and attend school in person on Thursday and Friday.

“You’ll see in that model, no students are in the building on Wednesday. That’s important to the model because we need to have our custodians deep clean the building,” Pust said.

A survey that BPS issued to families showed that 40% of students and parents support a blended learning model, while 28% prefer in-person instruction and 23% remote, according to Pust’s presentation.

Pust also presented “guardrails” in which parents can choose to have students stay remote if desired. They can also choose to opt out of bus transportation.

Pust said students learning remotely will get the same lessons at the same time as the in-person students, meaning teachers will be working double duty.

“The kids at home are not getting no curriculum or getting a canned version of the curriculum or getting a printed packet. They’re getting the same learning from their teacher as the kids in the classroom,” Pust said.

BPS will be adhering to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education timeline of having initial reopening plans for in-person, hybrid and remote learning submitted by July 31 and a final plan on Aug. 10.

The virtual meeting on Zoom maxed out for the first time, according to Chairman Michael Loconto, at more than 600 participants Wednesday night.

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