Students and Staff at DHS Return to Hybrid By Katrina melvin and Beca Porto

Senior Chase Lutz admits the new hybrid schedule is challenging.

“Adapting is hard because I often wake up and have no idea what day of the week it is,” Lutz said. “It’s hard to adapt to the always changing year. I never know what pants I’m gonna have to put on for the day.”

When Dexter High School returned in a modified hybrid model on Thursday, January 28, with the school having no more than 50% of students in the building on a given day, a mask mandate, social distancing of six feet or more requirements, and individual students being labeled to attend in-person classes on either an ‘A Day’ or ‘B Day,’ Lutz knew it was going to feel weird.

“The biggest difference from last year and this year is the lack of socialization,” Lutz said. “There’s no way to pull really good pranks on my friends anymore. No more giving all my teachers big bear hugs when I miss them dearly. I can’t give Quentin Hurdle kisses on the cheek anymore.”

The new hybrid schedule is new for all of us. Some people love it and some people hate it. Some have adjusted well and others have not. While some of us may be staying home-based and others have decided to be home-room and come to school, we are all experiencing this new hybrid schedule together.

We reached out to students and staff to see how they have adapted to the new schedule and how they feel about the measures DHS has taken.

The lunchroom poses the biggest risk in Lutz’ opinion.

“The lunch room is just 100 people without masks, kinda spread out, kinda like a large germ breeding hazard,” Lutz said. “That’s my biggest concern.”

For seniors, the drastic changes to this school year has impacted their futures more than others. It holds a lot of uncertainty for what could happen or how futures will look in college or wherever they may choose to go. Between last spring and now, everyone has seen many changes and adapted plenty of obstacles.

Home-based students (at Home)

Junior Hannah McComas is home-based for second semester, but has positive feelings about the frames of second semester.

"My favorite thing about the new schedule is that we still have asynchronous Wednesdays to get work done," McComas said. "My least favorite part is the longer class times, except since I am staying home it doesn't affect me much at all. I actually get out of class earlier than I did before. I think DHS has done a really nice job at limiting the amount of students around each other at once and as long as students are following the new guidelines it will slow down or prevent outbreak."

Everyone has different levels of comfort when it comes to being around people during a pandemic. Some people are more comfortable being around people than others. Those who decided to stay home-based could have done it for any sort of reason. Maybe they weren’t ready to be around people, or they didn’t want to risk getting themselves or their families sick, or maybe they enjoyed the flexibility of staying at home.

To better understand their reasons for staying home, and their feelings about this home-based learning model, we reached out to some students and asked them to share some of their thoughts.

“I do enjoy my freedom being home-based," junior Madi Brancheau said. "I think that DHS has taken the right precautions and it should help slow the spread of Covid in the school but not stop it completely."

Junior Olivia Teachout, on the other hand, liked the pre-Covid schedule better.

"There really isn't anything I like about the schedule," Teachout said. "It just seems very stressful and confusing for everyone. I mean I can see good aspects about it, but it seems more stressful than anything."

Junior Lindsey Hartman isn't a fan of the new schedule either, but her concern is more about students not following Covid protocols.

“My Favorite part about the hybrid schedule is nothing really; I don’t like it," Hartman said. "I think in classrooms it's easier to be safe because teachers can monitor students, but you can't really control kids when they're out in halls and I feel like teachers aren't gonna care really because it's really hard to control stuff like that outside the classroom.”

Home-room (at school)

Senior Emma Hodder feels comfortable with the home-room option at DHS.

“My favorite thing about the hybrid schedule is that we still get to do in-person school while limiting our exposure to other students since we only are in the building with about a third of the total population at a time," Hodder said. "All in all, I appreciate the measures that DHS has taken to make this experience as safe as possible."

Most of the school body chose to come back to school in some capacity; Nearly 800 students of the approximately 1,200 DHS students opted to be back in the classroom according to an initial report.

That could mean those people were either tired of being stuck in their house, wanted to be able to actually experience a semi-normal school year, or they aren’t afraid of Covid (or all three!).

Everyone seems to have a different perspective and opinion. But everyone shares the same goal: to keep the school and ourselves safe and healthy.

"I like that we are able to go back in person and see the people that we know," junior Andy Jordan said. "I do not like having to wake up early again, but I do think that if the teachers keep doing what they are currently doing to prevent the coronavirus pandemic from spreading, then there will be very minimal spread."

Junior Emma Hodder said she is having trouble adjusting to the longer class periods and a different homework load.

“My least favorite thing is that each class period is very long and we’re using an entire school day but only seeing half of our classes," Hodder said. "It makes it a lot harder to not be behind in the coursework when we only see each class two days a week”.

Senior Kelsey Walter had an opposite perspective.

"I like how we didn’t try and squish all six classes into one day again," Walter said. "This better prepares us for college and takes a lot of stress off of us with not as much homework every night. I dislike how much the schedule was changed, because it seemed once I got a handle on it, it was changed again.”

Junior Max Nakon said he's trying to find the positives in a time filled with plenty of negatives.

"Of course I miss the freedoms that come with a regular school day such as talking to my friends in the hall or messing around in lunch, but for the most part I think the new model could be much worse," Nakon said.

Senior Lauren See has learned to enjoy one of the things we seem to have taken for granted for so long: being with others.

“It's nice to see people interacting with one another again, but still doing it safely,” See said.

Junior Cole Arnedt feels Dexter is going above and beyond with safety protocols.

“I have talked to kids from other schools and from what I have heard it seems like Dexter is taking more precautions than other schools even," Arnedt said.

DHS Teachers

The teachers and staff had no choice on whether or not they would stay home or go back to school. As teaching is their job, they had to come back to school to teach their students. Every week, all day, for four, or five, days a week. Being exposed to many more people every week than students can pose an extra risk. But without risk there's no reward. Teachers being able to teach in person again is very rewarding for them since they haven’t been able to do it for ten months.

"I think it's beneficial to be able to check in with individuals a bit," said Josh Jetton, a new teacher at DHS this year. "My students, so far, are doing way better at turning in their work. So that is a huge benefit. I think it'll get smoother as we all get used to it.”

Science teacher Leslie Tracy also feels the benefits of in-person learning.

“My favorite thing about hybrid is seeing my students and making a meaningful connection in-person," Tracy said. "I appreciate all the measures that have been taken to ensure our safety. I think it is impossible to have groups of people together and not have the possibility of an outbreak. I will love to get all students back into the classroom as soon as it's safe for everyone.”
"My feelings consist of fear, and trepidation," -English Teacher Patrick Stolkey.
"I'm glad to be back with students in the classroom, and the hybrid schedule, in part, has made this possible," Social studies teacher Tracy Stahl said. "I would have to say my favorite aspect of the model is the block schedule and my least favorite aspect is managing new technology. I'm trying to close the generational technology gap, but it takes me a long time to figure technology out."

One of the biggest changes to all variations of the schedule this year are asynchronous Wednesdays. Math teacher Lisa Bauer sees that, among other things, as a huge positive for students and staff.

"What I like best about the hybrid schedule is the every other day format that is helping to prepare our juniors and seniors for college" Bauer said. "I also like the flexibility afforded by the asynchronous Wednesdays to get individual help as needed. I couldn't believe how good it felt to have students back in the classroom. They give me energy and joy in the day,"

Added history teacher Murphy Hansen:

“ Face-to-face teaching is like no other," Hansen said. "I'm nervous to be back in the classroom. There are many unknowns when it comes to hybrid teaching. I know through it all, my students will continue to be awesome. They have been the one constant for me this year. No matter what's happening around me, my students always show up and they give me their best. That's all I can ask for. I don't imagine this changing with our transition to hybrid. So, I will just focus on them, my students, and hope for the best.”

During the past year of the pandemic, English Teacher Barry Mergler recognized how much he (and all of us) need others.

"I love what I do, and I'll give 100-percent regardless of the circumstances," Mergler said. "We’re educators, after all. We make it work. For me, the best part of this hybrid environment is being able to see students and colleagues again. Even though I'm an introvert, I realized last year that I really need people, and I really miss being around people."

Concurrent Teaching

Something that isn't often discussed is that Dexter isn't following a true hybrid model; DHS is teaching in a concurrent model and it's quite different.

Concurrent teaching is the idea of teaching students face-to-face in person and virtually at home at the same time. This model of teaching has not been around for long, but it has made a big impact on students and teachers all around the world.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, concurrent teaching has gotten more and more popular. As it makes teaching students who are in-person and at home simplified and equals out the material being taught. There are different ways that concurrent teaching can be presented, but the most common way is how DHS is doing it; Students zoom into class from home while there are in-person students at school. The teacher in the classroom instructs both groups simultaneously.

“It's not the schedule that's the issue. The schedule is good! It's having students who are in-person and students who are learning remotely in class at the same time that's challenging,” said a DHS teacher who wished to remain anonymous.

The teachers at DHS have mixed feelings about this way of teaching.

“It's great to see more students in person but a little challenging to teach to both "the studio audience" and "the folks at home," English teacher Ellen Doss said.

Math teacher Lisa Bauer noted it's borderline impossible to provide the same attention to students on Zoom as it is to in-person students.

“I feel bad for those at home because I know that I'm not giving students at home the same attention via Zoom that I'm able to provide in class when I walk around and provide support and reteaching,” Bauer said.

The Squall asked teachers a variety of questions and had them answer on a scale of 1 to 5. Here are the results of the survey that consisted of 41 teacher responses.

1. I feel very unsafe...........5. I feel completely safe
1. I have not adapted at all......... 5. I have adapted very well
1. At least once per class period.......... 5. Not at all

Next, The Squall asked teachers to how they think their students have adapted to the new schedule. We then asked students (204 responded) to tell us how they personally have adapted. Here are the comparative results.

1. I don't think they have adapted at all........ 5. I think they are adapting really well
1. I haven't adapted at all....... 5. I have adapted really well

Many teachers feel differently about this style of teaching and how it works for everyone. Students also have a lot of different feelings and thoughts on what DHS has decided. Everyone is adapting to this hybrid model and working through the kinks together.

As Social Studies teacher Jaime Dudash said, the important thing is that we follow the measures put in place to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy and that we are patient and understanding when it comes to navigating all the new things this schedule and model has to offer.

“No safety protocols that can ever be placed can make any environment risk-free, but I have every sense that the district leadership would not open without having a sense that we can faithfully do our level best to maintain a safe teaching and learning environment for all if we do our best to maintain the protocols," Social Studies teacher Jaime Dudash said. "All staff across the whole district got into education because we see ourselves in the 'kid business.' I have missed the great teacher/learner. Let's all be safe and take care of ourselves and each other.”