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Hybrid learning plans draw praise and criticism as schools prepare to reopen

Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth ISDs are planning to limit in-person attendance by dividing classes into groups alternating between virtual and in-person learning.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Hybrid learning is a good step in limiting the spread of COVID-19, according to teachers' advocates, but the plan several large districts are adopting doesn’t come without criticism.

Fort Worth ISD became the latest district to approve a hybrid learning system during a school board meeting that started Tuesday evening and stretched into the early morning hours Wednesday.

RELATED: Fort Worth ISD board delays in-person learning by two weeks

Hybrid learning, which mostly affects high school students, divides classes into groups that alternate learning from home and learning in the classroom.

“A lot of our large school districts are taking advantage of that,” said Steven Poole, executive director of the United Educators Association.   “It is a way to limit the number of students that are in our large high schools and helps us control social distancing and provides a safer environment.”

The system, however, doesn’t eliminate the risk of exposure.  Teachers gathered outside the school board meeting calling on virtual learning to continue until the Tarrant County Health Department recommends otherwise.

The plan is also unlikely to please parents who are pushing for schools to open fulltime to parents who need it.

Following the school board’s decision, some parents took to social media saying it’s impossible for them to return to work while virtual learning is still in place.

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Others on social media questioned how teachers are expected to teach a classroom and a virtual classroom at the same time.

“So that’s some answers the district’s going to have to provide teachers,” Poole said.  “Take things off their plates so they have time to get that work done.”

The topic of reopening schools has drawn passionate responses from both sides. Caught in the middle are the school boards left to make decisions that are unlikely to please everyone.

“It’s been very difficult,” Poole said. “Parents, rightfully so, want their students back in person.  That is the best learning environment for our kids, but at the same time, staff and teachers are very concerned about their health and the health of their families.”

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Classes taught in real-time with two-way communication are referred to as synchronous instruction.  Subjects and assignments where students engage on their own time are described as asynchronous instruction.

According to Fort Worth ISD, each campus and specialized program will be unique on how the instruction is delivered according to the personnel resources, appropriate developmental levels of students, and enrollment of students virtually.

Fort Worth ISD will begin phasing in in-person learning starting October 5.