Summit School District delays return to hybrid learning as county remains in level red

The Summit School District Administration Building in Frisco is pictured Nov. 12. The district has delayed its return to in-person learning until Jan. 11.
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News archive

With the news that Summit County will remain in level red for the time being, the Summit School District has pushed back the date for when students will return to hybrid learning.

Since Nov. 30, all students in the district have been participating in online learning as a response to an overwhelming number of quarantines in the district. Originally, the plan was to have students return to hybrid learning Jan. 4 after their holiday break. Now, students won’t be returning to hybrid learning until Jan. 11 at the earliest.

According to a news release, elementary and secondary students will remain in online learning through Jan. 8. If case numbers after the holidays aren’t overwhelming, those students will return Jan. 11 to hybrid learning, which has elementary students in person four days a week and secondary students in person two days a week.

“We are hopeful for a safe, healthy and strong start to the second semester and to 2021,” Superintendent Marion Smith Jr. said at a school board meeting Thursday, Dec. 17. “But we’re also mindful that each of our decisions over the holiday break is going to determine how quickly we can return to in-person learning.”

Smith said the district came to this decision after looking at a number of data points, which it summarized in a document that Chief Operations Officer Drew Adkins presented at the meeting.

According to the data page, the district came to the decision after looking at the spread of the virus throughout Summit County, the daily positivity of district students and staff, the number of quarantines, student attendance and technology usage.

The major concern is the spread of the virus around the upcoming holidays.

“Summit schools are a microcosm of the larger Summit County community,” Adkins said. “We absolutely want nothing more than to have in-person learning and opportunities. Safety and health during this global pandemic often precludes some of those opportunities.”

The other data that Adkins presented suggests that while online learning isn’t ideal, it has been working. Attendance data shows that an average of 91% of students across all schools have been attending class daily during the online learning period.

Additionally, students have been using their laptops responsibly. The majority of time spent on the laptops has been used for education, reference and email as well as search engines and web-based applications, according to the data.

Adkins added that changes in guidance from the state are going to make the transition back to hybrid learning easier. Previously, the state required that students who had been exposed to the virus receive a negative test and a doctor’s note before returning to school. Now those students are only required to have a negative test result.

The state also has supplied the schools with KN95 masks, which can help prevent the spread of the virus, and the district has been providing testing at Summit High School, Summit Middle School, Dillon Valley Elementary School and Upper Blue Elementary School for all students.

At the meeting, board members agreed that the delayed return to hybrid learning is the best option for right now, as no one knows what the data will look like after the holidays.

“This team has got some amazing criteria that they’re looking through as they’re making these decisions, an unbelievable amount of data and direction they get from the state and from the national and local levels,” school board President Kate Hudnut said.

Hudnut added that it’s not lost on district leadership that online learning isn’t easy or ideal for parents or students.

“We are hearing, of course, a lot from our parents — everything from essential workers who absolutely must be out of the house working to … office workers who are ‘fortunate’ to be working from home and have kids in the background,” she said. “There’s no simple solution for any of this. We hear you (and) we’re listening.”

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